where to park?

Where do you put a tiny house?

This is a very good question and one that almost put a quick end to our tiny house plans.  The short answer is that you can park a tiny house:

  1. On a friend or family’s land that you rent
  2. On your own land that you own
  3. In some RV or mobile home parks

The long answer is that tiny homes are most likely illegal, but check your local zoning codes.  Most zoning and building codes require homes to be a minimum square footage in order to be considered habitable.  This is often 1,400 SF.  (So, not 200 SF.)  Often codes will require even guest houses to be a minimum size that exceeds the footprint of a tiny home, but check with your local codes, there are some accessory dwelling codes that allow tiny houses as guest homes.

I think we all know that a house smaller than 1,400 SF is probably not inherently dangerous, and indeed the minimum square footage zoning codes seem to have originated from the input of realtors and bankers.  So, understanding that our codes are often based on profit rather than safety, we decided, after much deliberation, to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

Tiny houses are built on trailer platform foundations for mobility, but also because being mobile means they are exempt from building and zoning codes.  This is not to say that they aren’t built to code – they should be – and ours are built above and beyond building code requirements.  But you do not need a building permit to build on a trailer platform.

So, if you want to live within the laws, here are some things to check out with your local zoning codes:

  • Are there minimum square footage requirements for homes?  If not, you could possibly build a tiny house on a permanent foundation.
  • Are you allowed to park an RV on your property?  Without a main permanent dwelling?  And are you allowed to live in it full time?
  • If you are looking for a guest house, office or studio, does your zoning code allow for accessory dwellings?  And are there minimum square footage requirements?  Do they have to be on a permanent foundation?

I hope this information does not turn you off to the idea of tiny living, we decided to go through with building our tiny house even though we found ample discouraging info suggesting that they are illegal and you will be homeless (with your home in tow…)  Our experience has shown that we have been able to rent land from a landlord in a residential neighborhood in town with no problems.  We currently rent land from our family and live out on some rural property and have not had any troubles.

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22 Comments

22 thoughts on “where to park?

  1. Don Parsons

    If you are looking for a place in Missouri, check out Rockwood Villiage Mobile Home Community, located north of Cameron, MO on EE Hwy. We feature 95 acres of wooded land, with two fishing lakes. Just minutes from shopping in the town of Cameron. 1 hour north of Kansas City and 30 mins East of St. Joseph, MO. Call 816-632-6325

  2. Are there any size (sq ft) restrictions imposed by city/county/state ordinances at RVMHC? That’s just south of us a few hours.
    That is usually where the problem lies. I know that many manufactured home communities also have architectural requirements to be met to place a home, but most tiny homes on wheels don’t have a problem with that. It’s almost always a size/living space limitation where there are any it seems.

  3. There are some sites offered on the tiny house community map: http://www.tinyhousecommunity.com/map/communities/
    And if you don’t find a place in your area, you can register on the map for people seeking places.

  4. vstanley

    mostly illegal,so go where there are no codes to restrict u.U better check before U leap.

  5. Elisa

    What about tiny homes NOT on wheels? Found a nice 383sq ft tiny home but it is not on wheels and currently on piers and beams? Is this treated as a guesthouse to a main dwelling? My family has some small property in a 700 population town in Wyoming, not exactly the place for someone in their 20’s but I’m also sick of paying $1000/month in rent in TX. Feel like I’m caught I between. Too big to be a tiny home on wheels but too small to be considered a home??

  6. Abby

    Hi,

    I am a soon too be coastguard wife, when my husband gets into the military this summer. I would like to purchase a tiny home and live in it for a few years. My concern is the moving accross the U.S. with the home. Then having to find land to park it on. I really want to do this because I will be alone a lot. Please tell me I wont have to lice in a tailor park!

    • Rosa

      Why is it that some people think that everyone that lives in a trailer park is trash!!! Thank god I own my mobile home !! I ‘am unemployed since 2011 and have been living in the same trailer park for over thirty years and we all get along great and have manners. Class is something you are born with!!

    • Lisa

      If you feel you’re too good to live in a trailer park you may want to reconsider tiny house living. While tiny houses can be and usually are quite nice it takes a certain kind of person to actually live in one. Trailer parks can be a good option for tiny house living if the owner will allow it as they have utility hook ups readily available and there are MANY very nice trailer parks across the country that will often let you rent month to month. If you are planning to buy a tiny house that has already been constructed you will likely find that it is difficult to find one that will fit all your “needs”. In my experience, people who are completely incapable of constructing their tiny house or at least having a hand in it usually lose interest in the way of life relatively quickly.

    • F. GILLY

      That’s ridiculous. In my area, double-wide trailers sell for stucco home prices. We have fireplaces, huge kitchens, wood floors, and NO LICE! PLEASE stop thinking in ancient terms about mobil or manufactured homes.

      • Fortunately the modern tiny houses found being build these days are very far from ancient and also VERY far from mobile or manufactured homes. I lived in a mobile home and these tiny houses a very far above the quality of construction of a MH. Think more in terms of the same build standard of an average stick built home, make it 1/10th the size but the same standard of build and that’s a tiny house. MH are not even close to that… still. RVs are also nowhere near the quality except that they are made for mobility, but not for permanent living like a tiny house. The price to build a tiny house can be high IF you choose very expensive materials, but generally they are no more than what a contractor might charge to build you a two car garage in a middle class neighborhood. The fact that *some* tiny houses are built on a trailer is only for getting around the unreasonable restrictions in building codes which are more based on societal desires for conformancy than any actual safety. (bigger is better? not!). Fireplaces? Tiny houses have those, albiet a bit smaller but just as romantic. Wood floors? Again, tiny houses have those too and every bit as nice, nicer in some instances. Huge kitchens? Why, who really needs a huge kitchen unless you run a restaurant? My wife has a huge kitchen and all that happens is it gets filled with lots of useless gadgets that mostly sit in the drawers and cupboards and have to be cleaned and rearranged once in a while. She actually only uses 1/5th of what she has… and half of that because she feels guilty if she doesn’t since we have it there. If she were to realize that, and get rid of the excess, half our cupboards would be empty and the rest would still have lots of spare space. All excess causes stress, un-needed expense, uses up time that could be better spent on other pursuits. Excess does not bring any real fulfillment but gets in the way of realizing that. And that is the real crux of the matter here. Too many have succumed to the brainwashing of commercial consumerism to buy more, spend more, have more, and don’t have the joy they desire. As far as building a tiny home where it is allowed on a foundation… Some communities have already changed their codes out of a realization that tiny houses are a good thing. Spur, TX and Walsenburg, CO now allow tiny houses to be built or placed on city lots as long as they connect to city utilities and are permanently placed on a slab, foundation, or peirs and tied down properly. Lots are inexpensive and the communities have lots available. Other communities will follow.

  7. Dara

    Hi Abby, This unfortunately is the biggest obstacle for many tiny house wannabe’s. I have been searching for quite some time, hoping to find a small parcel of land to rent for my own tiny house I’d like to buy and move into. I am a newly divorced mom with 2 kids in college, hoping to downsize and live a simpler life. This would also be ideal for you and finding a place to park is not any easy task. I am on my ipad daily hoping something will pop up in my area. If you give me an approximate area you’d like to settle in I can give you some places to check out. Areas that seem to be the most Tiny House friendly are Northern California, Oregon, Washington and North Carolina, but I know there are others.
    And No, you do not have to live in a trailer park-LOL!

    • Great reply Dara, thanks. We found our first rental piece of land by searching craigslist for RV sites to rent, or land for rent with RV hookups, people add these to their property as a way to generate extra income and they’re great for tiny houses. You could also post an ad saying you’re looking for an RV site to rent with water and sewer hookups and 30 amp power…. Check with family and friends too, that was our 2nd rental property – family.

  8. Lisa

    Hi all, Some state parks offer RV sites for rent and are beautiful locations. You have to watch though some only allow you to stay a short period of time, so ask lots of questions. Also I think it would be lovely for investors to buy up old run down mobile home parks and turn them into tiny house parks. I love tiny houses, but I love community as well. This way you could have the best of both worlds. I live in a mobile home park and I love it!

  9. Elle

    It’s a very bad thing that RE sales people, financial institutions, developers and fearful individuals have a choke hold on the zoning commissions nationwide. Their lobbies are extremely strong and they lobby continuously. That’s the issue–CHANGING/MODIFYING LAWS that were put into effect to maximize profits for the few, rather than serve the many. I’m not talking about safety, here. The reason we have a country full of 5000sf homes is that in the 70’s the building industry hit a wall. No longer could they make as much money as they were making before the decade. Consequently, the construction industry and the banks colluded. The result? Huge sf homes to effectively convince the public to pay more for a lesser version of the lovely little 1960’s homes. It’s all about profit. Now, our USA young people who want/deserve a nice home simply can’t afford it and are left out in the cold. Land, anywhere, is outrageously priced if near a population center, hence the lack of affordability begins and expands to the USA huge, wasteful house. The small home movement isn’t moving very far afield if laws are not changed to reflect the change in our attitudes about waste and replenishment of our environment.

  10. Bravo, Elle, well said!

  11. Jay

    Anyone know the restrictions on Long Island, NY by any chance? (I would imagine they are insane) still, Id like to know. Thank you.

    • Theresa

      Hey there Jay!

      As far as I can see with Long Island, as I’ve been searching too, the zoning laws are broken down by municipalities in Suffolk County. Nassau and Queens are unlikely to be an option, as they’ve managed to close all (or nearly all) mobile home communities that were in place.

      Look into zoning laws for the municipalities you’d be interested in. Brookhaven’s codes happen to be nearly impossible to read, though I’m not surprised. Good luck, please share!

  12. Duke

    Isn’t the point of owning a tiny house so that you dont have to pay rent? When it comes to finding a place to park it, youre charged just as much as if you were to get an apartment. Seems like a lousy idea to me

    • Yes, it would be insane if you were paying the same rent! We found our land rent and utilities in the tiny house was one third of costs in a regular house… $400 vs. $1200…

  13. Felipe

    Some questions…

    I looked at tumbleweed, and these things START at $57k. I’ve owned 2, proper homes (800 sq ft and 1000 sq ft) for $65k and $52k respectively. Why not buy a nice fixer upper and plant yourself for a while?

    Last I checked, these things probably weigh 20k lbs fully furnished. You’re gonna need a BIG dollar truck to pull these around, and lots of fossil fuel. AKA, you’ll be planting yourself somewhere anyway, unless you can afford moving big fee$ every couple of years.

    I think the minimum square footage has to do with fire hazard. I mean, if you’re in a 140 square foot space, in the winter, you’re dead before you hear the smoke detector if you’re sleeping in the loft.

    What do you do in a 3 month snow season? I mean, talk about “cabin fever.” All of a sudden “A Clockwork Orange” comes to mind.

    Finally, why not just a nice travel trailer? I mean, yeah, they use more plastics and stuff, but you can always panel the inside to seal up that stuff. Plus they are much cheaper, lighter, and if you get a used one, you’re recycling.

    Sorry…just a confused Gen-Xer trying to figure out why anyone wants to live in one of these things.

    • Bella

      Hey Felipe, to answer some of your questions:

      Some people may not want to buy a fixer-upper because they may not have the time to work on it, which is the only reason someone would buy a completed tiny house from Tumbleweed anyway. And others may not want to plant themselves for a while because they may want to move their location every year or two, which is a great benefit of having tiny house. It beats having to buy and sell a house every time they wish to move, or renting and your money going towards (essentially) nothing, with prices constantly varying depending on where you want to move to. I believe that it is cheaper to buy (~60-80k) or build (~30-45k) a tiny house than it is to buy a house in most places in the US. And once you own a tiny house, it’s yours to live in and take with you wherever you wish to go for the rest of your life, as opposed to a regular home that you’d have to sell and find a new home when you wanted to move.

      Yes, it probably would cost a lot of money to tow a tiny house, but you don’t necessarily need to buy a ridiculously priced vehicle. You could lease one to make your move, and it would probably end up costing about the same as moving from one stationary house to another anyway, when you calculate the cost of renting a moving truck and such.

      Yes, there is a fire hazard, as there is with any place you live in. But I don’t think it’s fair to say you’re in any more danger in a tiny house than in a regular house.

      I never saw A Clockwork Orange, so I don’t quite understand the reference. But as for snow, tiny houses can be built to withstand the elements. You may need to shovel a path from your front door to your car, and from your car to the road, but I don’t think it would be much different than doing the same shoveling for a regular house.

      Travel trailers aren’t really a great idea for permanent living because they fall apart fairly quickly (which is why they are so much cheaper), at least in comparison to tiny houses. Tiny houses are usually built to last, whereas travel trailers can start falling apart after a few years. Also, travel trailers are extremely ugly and it can be impossible to make one look and feel truly like a home. Tiny houses can be made to look quite stylish. They actually feel like a real home, just a tiny one, and that can do a lot to harmonize with the freedom gained from living tiny.

      I hope this answers your questions, and I hope it offers a different perspective on tiny living :)
      Bella

  14. Homes start in the 200k range in my area for a unit needing serious work otherwise I would. Also, don’t know how to fix a house.

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