Greg Johnson of the Small House Society published a video on how city housing codes influence tiny house living.
In a 4 minute video he covers a viewers question, “where can you legally put a tiny house on wheels?”
Greg does a great job of explaining the problems we face in addition to different ways you can get around them.
He also briefly discusses cities that are beginning to allow this type of housing as completely legal accessory dwelling units.
Greg talks about the challenges faced by code enforcement to catch folks sleeping in recreational vehicles, campers, and tiny houses.
I’ll let him do the talking, Hope you enjoy and be sure to visit the Small House Society for more information related to the tiny house movement.
Photo Courtesy of the Small House Society and Greg Johnson on YouTube
If you want to listen to Greg’s tips on how to get around building codes and city zoning, I encourage you to watch his 4-minute video below:
What did you like best about the tips Greg gave us? Share your thoughts and challenges in the comments below.
If you found this video helpful, do your part by clicking “Like” on Facebook and sending it to your friends using the buttons below. Thank you.
Very interesting video, thanks for posting. We’ve been living on and off in our RV and one of the main issues has been finding places to live (apart from trailer/rv parks) for extended periods of time. Bylaws seem to be the enemy of the full time rv’r and tiny house dweller.
From our experience it’s often the neighbors that get involved, they are the ones that can tell how long you are staying, and depending on the neighborhood, can often get quite insistent in dragging in that mean old bylaw officer.
It’s informative to know the reality, so was pleased with the video
I appreciate you sharing your experience, Kim. I can certainly seeing that being a problem and that’s usually what it is.. Neighbors who don’t like what you’re doing. I think that’s why it’s important to get out, talk, and make friends. Possibly- before you park and claim it home as you may be able to predict who’s who and what they’re okay with. Saving you future hassles, etc.
I was so excited to see this link. But you are saying the same thing that gives the Tiny Movement a bad reputation. People EVADING the laws and/or LIVING on other people’s properties. This is NOT what we want. We want to be able to purchase a piece of land and legally park a tiny mobile or legally build a home that is less than 200 square feet. We don’t want tips on how to be outlaws or slackers.
I wouldn’t say it’s an outlaw or slacker thing to do. It’s not his fault the average voter is okay with big government, and trading liberty for security. Are nation is full of people that say things like “There oughta be a law …” without batting an eye. But just because it’s law doesn’t make it wrong, or make someone a criminal for building their own house. I believe there are still laws on the books in some places that make it illegal to sleep with your shoes on, and laws that prevent non-Christians from holding office. Sometimes the moral thing is to break the unjust law. Either that, or play them at their own game by finding loopholes and such. Disconnect electricity for a day to avoid a consecutive day hookup law == smart.
Thanks, Scott, great points. I’m all for laws that help keep people safe while not infringing on their rights.
When a law is created to prevent folks from doing something which doesn’t put anyone at any risk/harm, I believe it should be questioned.
At that point, “loopholes” should be found and taken advantage of with respect to the people, officials, and gov’t in the area.
Interesting point, Aili.. If there are really enough of us that want this in a given area (or are willing to move, etc) and will gladly pay for land and a tiny house on wheels to be built for them, then I don’t see why an RV park purchase and “conversion” isn’t possible right now. I’m casually exploring this option here in SW Florida as there are tons of developers here.
I have lived in South East Florida for decades. I am now just a bit north of Palm Beach on the treasure Coast. Miami Dade will no longer allow new mobile homes at all nor will Broward county (Ft. Lauderdale). Palm Beach is now negative on all mobile homes and Martin county has severely restricted all mobile homes as well. Any piece of land that allows a mobile home in Martin county will be very, very expensive. Some parks have been forced to close down.
This has to do with mobiles not paying property taxes and also the presence of families with children creating school expenses and is topped off by insurance industry horrors since the three hurricanes hit us six years ago. Nobody wants to write insurance in south Florida now and mobile homes amplify that issue.
I agree with Aili, all you need is one complaint and you`re gone, or since it has wheels, impounded. Wheels do not make a RV, a RVIA sticker does.
Thanks Gene. I think there are a bunch of variables so each situation calls for a different solution or “work around”.
I’ve been a fan of tiny houses since I first saw them on hgtv a year ago.
My questions are concerning zoning rules here in south Florida since I live in the Miami area, would I have to look for R.V. friendly spots or am I able to buy land and have a tiny house placed there…..if so, how would I go about doing this, especially since im just relocating to the area after my divorce.
Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.
Have you managed to find info on your questions?
because I also live in Miami and have been wondering the same thing.
I understand where both of you are coming from. I think that one of the biggest hindrances keeping people from making the leap in their own lives, is the fact that some people view those who do, as “outlaws or slackers.” But that’s why it’s a MOVEMENT. The blog and the video are just stating the facts. If you want to buy a plot and put a tiny house on it, you’re probably going to have to find some rural land. That’s the way things are now, and it takes people challenging the laws and regulations, to affect change.
Couldn’t have said it better, Ryan, thank you.
Politics should not control where people live. I watched a battle over a developer wanting to build condos with two and three bedrooms. The city fought with every weapon they could to stop it. The city insisted on single bedroom units only and they wanted over 55 rules for purchasing. They knew which segment of the population could spend the most, act up the least, and not add to the need for more schools. To the city two and three bedroom units meant more kids and more teens and they are considered as negatives. Land here is very expensive and a small lot can cost more than homes normally do and the city does check everything they can and frequently. Yet states like Texas have so much cheap land that entire cities of tiny homes could hide away there.
I see where you’re coming from, Aili, and the laws are frustrating and ridiculous and will take time to change. For now- those who are doing it are being creative with solutions. Some cities are already accepting the changes. In others you have to take your own risks. If you’re not willing to do that, then you can still simplify your life and get the smallest apartment/condo you can find.
I live in a city in Massachusetts and own a home. I’m ready to take the leap but I’m not willing to invest time and money and then feel like any minute my tiny HOME can be taken away. So here’s my plan. Go to the city, purchase a city-owned small lot in a depressed area, hire an architect to certify my hand-drawn plan for a 220 sq. foot house and see if it flies with the Building Inspector. I want to do it legally. I want to do it publicly so I’m not afraid of the neighbors ratting me out and I can be an example for the wanna-bes. There’s got to be a way to do this legally.
Good idea, Aili, I like your spirit. Another way is buy a 600-1200 sf house, live in it while building your 220 sf guest house/studio then rent out the larger home.
Just curious are you allowed to keep an RV or trailer on your property in MA?
You will be hard pressed to find any building codes that allow you to build a structure smaller than 1,200 square feet on your property. Most standardized, nationalized uniform building codes say that your house must be 1,200 sq feet, bathrrom must be no less than 50 sq ft, etc. Houston, Texas is the largest city that has no zoning codes and otherwise you will be looking for land in mountain areas, forest areas, and other areas where you are isolated from large cities. The City Planning Board doesn’t want you to get away with paying less than $3,000 per year in property taxes, and the Supremem Court never said Zoning was unconstitutional, which it is. So go live like a nomad in the mountains to be free or live like a slave with the rest of Americans in over sized, over taxed, and over regulated housing. Don’t forget to pay your large electric and heating bills too. Who said America was free? That was 100 years ago. Today it is trendy to be a slave and allow government officials to tell you how to live your life. Get on board man.
Great site/resource on building codes I wanted to add.. http://sustainablebuildingcodes.blogspot.com/2011/11/120-square-feet-reconsidering-minimum.html
Buying a “normal” house and putting a Tiny on the land isn’t breaking any ground it’s just circumventing the zoning. What about the person who can’t afford that? Similarly, the Commonwealth has few towns that will permit a permanent RV for habitation on your private property unless it’s zoned for RVs or mobile homes. Most only allow for extreme situations like our recent tornado that permitted residents to TEMPORARILY live in an RV on their land. I stand by the assertion that we need to live the way we want to live within the confines of the current zoning and eventually the zoning will relax. Look at cell towers, they were difficult to build at one time and needed special permits. As the corporations continued to build LEGALLY, the towns relaxed the zoning to comply with society’s change in need.
If you can’t afford to do that then the work around is to make connections with people who have land until you find a good fit. Some home owners are looking for that.. The elderly, etc.
These methods which you refuse to consider are making huge differences in some people’s lives right now.. I still agree with you that we should respect laws. My point is we have to look at what folks can do right now, and there are workarounds.
Worse comes to worse a person has to move (and that’s one of the reasons tiny homes are being built on trailers..as a workaround), but I don’t know of a law where officials can take your trailer/rv away from you because you camped in it and weren’t supposed to. I’ve just never heard of that happening before.
Where to put it is a huge issue. In some places land is scarce and laws and regulations can b awful. Another consideration is property taxes. There are places where property tax is trivial and other places where property taxes are violent and repressive. What cities fear are providing services such as schools without taxes on dwellings. If they only allow very expensive homes then high taxes can be collected.
Look for loop holes as best you can. the system is not your friend. Example: They may not regulate living on a boat or allow a boat to be beside a home. By a boat hull and set up the interior as a living space and keep it on a trailer. Bad boat hulls cost next to nothing at all. Use a camper as the cabin for your boat. If you need to but the home and rent it out while living in your boat, which is hooked into the home’s utilities. The fact that society in general can not afford to support itself is one very good reason to live in a tiny home. Rebels are welcomed.
Greetings from the Arkansas Delta — Just wanted to let folks know my husband and I have a 4 acre plot of land that we bought here in eastern Arkansas SUPER, SUPER CHEAP!!!! Anyone that has a tiny house on wheels is WELCOME to come and stay on our land for free– the only thing we would ask in return is for construction help (and expertise!) in building our small cabin. No money would exchange hands. We are one hour from Memphis, TN. and live one block from the Mighty Mississippi River! Contact me if interested! Animals and kids welcome too!
Oh wow, I travel that route every time I visit my mom in Alabama. I would love to stop by and help out. I’m a journeyman carpenter, certified. I look foreward to building my own tiny house, someday. Perhaps we’ll meet up. I love Tennessee…beautifull in the Autumn!
Thanks Janet that’s very kind of you.
Hi Janet, I’m curious to know where you live? I grew up in the same area you are describing. My wife and I are currently building a 248 sq. ft. house on wheels. My email is [email protected], I would love to get in touch some time.
I see this comment is several years old and wondered if the offer for work trade was still available for staying on land? I look forward to hearing back from you! Thanks and have a good one!
Yes, legitimacy is at the core of the issue, here. We just want legitimacy, to live as we wish. It’s the American way, isn’t it? I grew up a military brat, and that is the perspective I have on the American dream. It’s not to have a bunch of stuff, but to BE who you want to BE, and lIVE as you want to LIVE…..however big or small. Rock on tiny home dwellers!
Thanks, Theresa, right on!
EXCELLENT video! Rock on,Alex too!!!!!!!!!
Barefootin’ in rural south central sunny Arkansas, living in my very own tiny house
My thoughts? People need to be left alone, as long as they are not hurting anyone.
As long as rents take over 30% of folks wages due to abysmal minimum wage…folks should just step off those looking to live with a roof of any type over their heads.
By chance, is there any help with someone like myself who is seeking to affordably convert their tiny detached garage into an ADU/studio/tiny house?
I would love to share a video with you Alex, maybe folks subscribed can give me ideas and direction with the project?
I am in Portland by the way 🙂 We do have some hoops to go through and I am trying to learn about those as well.
Hey Kenny, that sounds fun. I can show the video of what you’re working with and we can all do a group collaboration. Talk to you soon. Alex
Very cool, I will get that to you this weekend, Alex.
Great, let me know if you need help. You can get to me by email here:
The cities rarely come looking at home interiors. If you convert a closed in garage using stealth the chances are they will not know it until you try to sell the home. Then it becomes and issue and you might want to be able to quickly turn it back into a garage.
Avoid going to a supply store like Home Depot and driving back home with a bunch of supplies as building inspectors frequently follow vehicles fro those types of stores to check permits. So if you go and buy a bunch of plywood be certain and stop and have lunch with a buddy and maybe make another stop before driving home. Do not order a concrete delivery to your home or any other action that would tell the world you are doing construction in your home.
Why not build a tiny home on wheels inside the garage? As long as nobody sees it you’ll be fine and if an inspector should take notice for some reason you are only building it there not keeping it there.
Seriously? Who wants to live that way? Read your zoning by-laws and city ordinances and build in accordance with the law until popular demand can change things.
I’m in the process of this exact endeavor and while it is taking additional effort to build tiny in compliance it is well worth the effort. Building and living tiny is supposed to be about gaining some PEACE and simplicity in your life … sneaking home from Lowe’s with building supplies is not my definition of living in peace!
Aili, You may feel you can wait for the world to change and maybe you can. Some of us can’t, there is always risk in life of one type or another. I am sure people who have had property confiscated by the government due to eminent domain thought they had rights too. Truth is laws are almost impossible to change, and there’s nothing wrong or illegal about finding ways around them. Thats what lawyers do everyday. Good luck and peace to you, hope we can both get what we want and need.
Great conversations here on the tiny blog. I am so grateful for everyone’s contributions and have learned so much. My husband and have been searching for an “affordable” home in Delaware for six months to get out of the city where people are literally killing each other in the streets. The housing stock is tricky as most of the starter homes are old and in need of major repair. In addition, many homes have been wrecked by previous homeowners in the foreclosure process. Land is roughly $35k+ per acre.
We are clearly in need of an alternative. We currently live in a 350 sq ft efficiency and are exploring the transition to a tiny home, but the problem still is…where do we build and where do we park? I see a lot of mobile home parks in Delaware. Does anyone in this tiny movement have experience with converting a mobile home park to a tiny mobile park? I read legitimate mobile structure in parks must be “manufactured.” Any idea how to get around this? We are exploring the idea of purchasing a mobile park for this purpose. If anyone has any resources along these lines please drop me a line. I would rather invest in a tiny home development rather than a 2000 sq ft started home with large utility bills and taxes. This is a great affordable housing project for the community. Peace.
Bunnell Florida….have a 1 acre pond was thinking a floating foundation 20X30 feet and a tiny house on it….from my understanding code might have a problem dealing with house boats….any thoughts ….Bob
I have several tiny/small projects on my 6 acres. I had to throw the helpers out the other day and they called all kinds of people on me. I dealt with animal control already and of course all my ducks were in a row. The police on the other hand were jerks. IE… you can’t have only one meter, you aren’t up to code…they claimed I was running an rv park … NOT, I am renting one rv spot to make the bills/expenses here as I am disabled. I am waiting on the code people and adult protective services . I don’t know what is gonna happen but we need laws to be changed. I bought in the county and not the city cause I didn’t want this kind of hassle and wanted to live small and self reliantly. Not sure if the fact the 2 tiny buildings we live in with a sep bath house was already here when we bought or not helps protect me or not. UGHHH
I’m enjoying the information here. Just wondering if anyone is doing anything around the Treasure Coast Florida. I’m trying to retire and would like to end up there but, retirement is minimal income so would like to have something small and perhaps mobile.
Can someone tell me if I can build a tiny home in miami dade county. Its going to be in a outside urban development boundary.. Currently its a 5th wheel trailer but I would like to take apart and rebuild it. I also wanted to actually extend it out to make it bigger. I’m I able to do this without breaking any laws?
Hi Ray, I’m in the Miami-Dade area and I’m looking to build a tiny home. Have you found any info?
Hello I’ve been researching on tiny houses and been wanting to acquire a cheap piece of land near central fl, i have carpentry skills therefore i’m opting to build a tiny house instead of buying a regular house and get in debt, i have a few questions on locating an onsite tiny house, if anyone can help please contact me at [email protected]
Legal? What is legal? At one time it was illegal for a “colored” person to ride in the front of the bus. Rosa Parks did not wait for the “majority” to vote for the legal issue. She was not hurting anyone, she had the right. Ladies and gentlemen our American laws have gotten out of hand. Protection has grown into oppression. You want to live in a smaller than “legal” domicile? Do it. If the government of this free land comes against you, call on the other Americans across this free land to stand up with you. Believe me they will.
Amen to that!)
nice video. thanks for making it. gave me some ideas on how to make it work for my situation.
I’m excited to have found this conversation….I am interested in buying a couple of acres of land in lower Alabama, and I have a question I hope someone can answer: is it legal to live in a “shed” amish-built cabin that I will convert to a tiny home? I want to do this on rural land, with no restrictions,but am still unfamiliar with this, and have ne er done anything like this before! Any info would be greatly appreciated :). Anna G
First I accidentally clicked report comment, and didn’t mean to. I do apologize.
I just want to know how do you find out what the minimum sq footage is for your city and county for a house of any size? Thank you.
Its very very difficult to understand why this is offered as a low quality walking, talking head video when it would have been much better absorbed if done with greater professionalism. A redo is recommended, especially with an update.
Thank you so much for the information. You answered every question I had in my mind of late regarding land issues for tiny houses with the exception of one. And, perhaps you do know the answer to my left over question as well…….
Are there any states that you know of that will allow you to build a tiny home on a foundation as if it were a regular house just really small and hook it up to existing water, gas, electric and waste. This would be on property that one has purchased outright and in more of a rural area but not so rural as to not have the utilities available. Do all states have large square foot minimums for the main dwelling that it be above 300 Sq feet say? I don’t mind building my tiny home right on a foundation if that would solve the problem in one of the areas I’d like to reside in. Anyone?
First off, if you do plan to build tiny on your land you’ll need to go do a little research at the city/county of your area and find out what there minimum square footage for a building is on privately owned land. There’ll probably be a minimum for both city and county and they might be different then each other. For me, I live in the county and I’m required by law to build no less then 500 square feet for living space. So do the research, you might find you can build smaller, and if your land is not visible from any street or neighbor you might be able to build any size you want provided your not on the grid. Kind of like out of site out of mind, if nobody can see how big or small your house is then they have nothing to report if in fact they’re going to.
I’m very interest in getting a Tiny House but there is so few of Tiny Houses communities near Miami Fl, Broward Fl, Homestead Fl. I will like to know if there is Rv parks or communities that accept tiny houses 1-3 hours out of Miami Fl besides the Orlando Lakefront at College Park, I search their web & the park looks awesome but is almost 4 hours apart from Miami fl. Thanks
Are there any in Ft Lauderdale
Hi, Is it legal to put a cabin in my own land and live in it? I’m from Broward County (Florida). Or is there a way by adding something to the exterior and roof that turns it legal? Thanks!
I recently purchased land in Martin county. It is zoned RT. (Residential trailer). I need to find an RV or tiny home that I can live in on my property. The well and septic have been tested and pass inspection. There are a couple concrete slabs that used to be porches. A large shed that needs to be torn down. I want to build on the concrete slab that currently holds the old shed. There was electric but no water or sewage hooked up to the shed. It was used as a workspace. I am of the DIY spirit and want to live the American Dream. To own land and build my own home.
I have a RV parked but not living in it since it is just a pop up camper. Once the electric company runs power to the lot again, I plan on spending most of my time there. I have met a few of the neighbors and they seem ok. I’m not looking for trouble. I want to make the community better and safer through a voluntary cooperative. I just want to live my life.
This is where I am going with the land. Where do I go to get the full list of housing and zoning and building requirements?
I am in the process of purchasing land for my RV. I have a friend that needs a caretaker for the large part of her land so she was selling me a small piece. I had read local statutes stating that in some cases RVs are counted at Mobile Homes. I went to zoning and they said no problem, go ahead. I then went to Health Dept to get permits for Septic tank. We got everything done, paid and even got the flags for the 2 possible septic tank sights. On the way home that night I got a call from zoning saying they didn’t realize it was an RV and that RV are not allowed at all. Talk about a screeching hault! I lost $500 over that for the inspection. They said I could buy a mobile home or build a stick house. I think Im gonna bring a mobile home and gut it, the park the RV inside it………very upset
Oh my goodness 🙁 Greylone I am so sorry! You did EVERYTHING right. That stuff makes me so angry 🙁
What is the minimum requirements for qualifying structure needed on the property you want to live in your tiny home on? Can it be a garage, a barn, a morgan building, does it require electricity, pier and beam vs foundation, square footage , etc. I want to buy rural land, put well, septic and electric pole and live in my tiny home. And I have read that I have to have a larger structure on the property to do this. I’m in central Texas… I need to find the cheapest yet useful type building to qualify…help, thx.
Hi Gina, It’s best to contact your local building committee/zoning committee and ask about the laws. It’s different in every town across the US, so there’s no “one size fits all” answer to your question, I’m afraid.
Commented above, so will continue here. I have two lake lots in mi. They are high and beautiful, the the health district won’t allow a septic or wells on the property and thus no homes as the property was filled 60 years ago.
I am developing them for like minded people and our solusion required some effort. I have lived a few seasons, summer, in a cute little house built on a pontoon boat and love it. Since I am building another. We are bringing electrical in, making life better and has. Waste is in a remote building, compost but can be electrical incinerated, an easy fix. Water is on a trailer, 250 gal at a time connected to a pump and distributed by underground pipes with showers also remote from boat.
Now we are developing another property in a similar manner but keeping the little house on pontoons on land and staying in it now and then, keeping it registered as a boat. This is life at it’s finest coupled with gazebo’s and kayaks out front, life is good. Now to find like minded good people to share it with.
I’m considering buying 10+ acres in Northern Michigan and eventually putting some sort of small mortgage-free eco house on it, possible a modular tiny home. Or – if the property comes with a seasonal cabin, converting that. I’m a single woman and I have no construction skills, not a DIYer.
I’d love to hear stories from anyone who has experience with this sort of situation in Michigan!