Tiny houses have become wildly popular over the last few years, and with good reason. There’s been a trend toward spending more time with family and bidding good riddance to heaps of material possessions, living a simpler, happier life. The trouble is that tiny houses occupy a gray area where legality is concerned. There has been some issue with trying to figure out where they fit in. A tiny house is not quite an RV, not really a mobile home, and definitely not a single-family residence.

Why does it matter? you may ask. It matters because there are certain allowances and restrictions for different types of homes. Hence the gray area of the tiny home. So how do you make sure your tiny house is legal?

According to the International Code Council, to be an official tiny house, the dwelling must be smaller than 400 square feet, not including loft space. A tiny house may be built on a foundation or on wheels. The difference here is more than deciding whether or not you want to be able to travel with your tiny home. It actually dictates where you’re allowed to build or park your tiny house. There are also different building codes and ordinances for movable versus stationary dwellings. Additionally, if you don’t already have residential status in the area where you live, it will be harder to obtain it if your tiny home is built to RV code. If you’re building your tiny house on a foundation, you’ll need to check local ordinances for requirements concerning size. Some zoning regulations require buildings to be more than 1,000 square feet, for example. If your house is smaller than the ordinance requires it to be, it won’t be considered a legal dwelling.

When it comes down to deciding where you’re going to park or build your tiny home, there are quite a few conditions to take into consideration. Maybe you’ve dreamed of building a tiny house on wheels and plopping it down next to your favorite lake. It’s not that simple. That land could be privately owned, or it might even be a protected area. Now with that said, there are some areas that are more friendly toward tiny homes. Some have no size restrictions as long as the house is built to code; others have deemed tiny houses fit for areas wherever mobile homes are allowed; still more have allowed them to be considered accessory dwellings on existing residential property.

No matter the size or location of your tiny home, there are a few things it absolutely must have in order to be considered up to code. It must have plumbing, including at least one separate bathroom. It must have a ceiling height of at least 6 feet, 8 inches (or 6 feet, 4 inches for baths and kitchens in some cases). It must have at least one window and must meet the standard for emergency exits. To find additional items required for legal dwellings, check your local building codes.

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