My Worst Tiny House Fear: Being Told I Can’t Legally Live Here

Posted by on Feb 6, 2013 in Legalize, Recent Posts | 59 comments

My Worst Tiny House Fear: Being Told I Can’t Legally Live Here

This post is a compilation of excerpts from my weekly letters during the time between December 2, 2012 and January 27, 2013. I’ve been quiet on the blog lately, because the past six weeks have been scary and hard. I am sharing publicly now, because we’ve made it through and everything is okay. Thanks to my weekly letter subscribers, I had a safe place to share these feelings while they were raw.

 

I’m not one to keep you hanging in worry, so I’ll spoil the story now:  We were found in violation of the Universal Statewide Building Code because we didn’t get a building permit to build our tiny house. The code in Virginia puts any dwelling into the jurisdiction of the local building inspector. So even though we built on wheels (constructing mostly in Florida) and have a license plate, we still needed to have a building permit and inspections.

 

We now have an official Certificate of Occupancy from our building department which makes our tiny house legal. What a relief to have this story end this way. I share these letter excerpts because they hold the emotion I felt as one of my worst fears was unfolding.

 

This story isn’t meant to bring up any ill-will or derogatory comments toward building officials or regulations. If we don’t like the law, we can work to change it. It’s nice to know that our home is officially safe, and so are the ones around me. We never set out to live illegally. We did what we thought we needed to do, but there was more to it. We learned a lot. I appreciate our building inspector; he does his job well and was very respectful and reasonable to us during this process. We hope our experience will help others to build and live an official, legal and worry-free tiny life.

 

Also, please note, that building codes vary by state and even by county, so what worked for us might not work in other areas. This is part of the challenge facing the tiny house community. The discussion on legal issues in the tiny house community is an ongoing one. A quick Google search will bring up several posts.

 

***

 

“Home is a place we all must find, child. Home is knowing your mind, your heart, and your courage. When we know ourselves, we are always home, anywhere.” – Glenda, the good witch, Wizard of Oz

Check out this inspiring and thought-provoking TEDx Talk on homelessness and the meaning of home.

 

December 2, 2012

 

We passed our first building inspection for the big house on November 26, 2012 which really is something to celebrate, but I, of course, heard the building inspector say, “What’s that?” repeatedly. That’s what he asked Karl when he looked at the tiny house. Karl had a great answer, “A homemade travel trailer.”

 

“Has it been inspected by a third-party?”

 

“No.”

 

“Well, I can’t let you live there.”

 

We’ve done our work to get a license plate and build following International Building Code as closely as we could, but having a government official question our home and imply anything other than, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” made me fret. It reminded me of losing our house in Florida. My mind raced to scary scenarios of being told we couldn’t live here. I want to put my arms around the tiny house and tell everyone to go away. If I were a giant Great Pyrenees like our dog, Sunna, I most certainly would bark circles around this hillside keeping all officials away. But then, I’ve shared so publicly that I can’t really do that.

 

Karl was talking, I knew it, but I didn’t know what he was saying. I saw his mouth moving; it surely was important, but all I could hear was the building inspector saying “What’s that?”

 

Walking around feels surreal, like my feet aren’t touching the ground, like all of this is a dream, like I’m living in one of my kids’ games of pretend. I want to be present, but I know I’ve checked out. Fear has me in its clutches. I feel like I am fighting for air. I don’t want to lose what we’ve worked for. I feel like a little kid. This is mine. Mine! MINE! I am cracked open and tired. This living game isn’t easy. I haven’t written for a few days. I’m over doing it on social media, so I force myself into the garden to plant garlic and move blueberry bushes. I tell myself that this dirt is real, this land is real, this love is real, this pain is real. My phone rings.

 

It’s my only brother. He listens well as I share the building inspector’s words. “…then he said ‘What’s that?’” my brother interrupts to answer, “My heart.”

 

That’s it! This house is my heart. I’ve put it on display and someone with ‘authority’ questioned it. Immediately, tears stream down my face. This is my heart. This is my family’s heart. This is the story of how we lost it all and built it back up. This is how we love. This is how we share our love with the world. This is how we say, “It’s really, really gonna be okay. We have this sun, these trees, this dirt, this water, this air, those birds, and this life.” Gratitude pours out of my eyes. I love my brother, his words, and his deep knowing of me. “I think some laws are gonna change, Hari,” he says, playfully nudging me. He knows my heart and reminds me of who I’ve always been. I shouldn’t be surprised to find myself here. I’ve always pushed things a little bit.

 

But only within the law. So, you can imagine my freak-out storm when we got the letter of violation from the building department on December 22, 2012. Merry Christmas!

 

Read the second and third installment of this series.


Simply,
Hari
P.S.
After helping over 250 people get started on the path to mortgage-freedom, we've learned a lot more about what it takes, the pitfalls, the tricks and triumphs of living a zero-debt life of intention. We're taking what we've learned and creating a whole new series of courses to help even more of you reach your dreams. Sign up for our newsletter to get first dibs on the limited seats in our new course.

59 Comments

  1. Oh man! Big hugs to you! That must have been so heart wrenching, I can’t even imagine. I’m glad that everything worked out. Also, your brother deserves a hug.

    • Thanks, Kera! I’ll take a big ole group hug about now! It is a huge relief to be past this yuckiness. And, yes, my brother deserves a hug. He has a BIG heart. xo

      • Is he married? ;D

  2. Ohhh my goodness Hari! I’m so glad that everything worked out for you!!! Also, this is such a beautiful post. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series. 🙂

    xo,
    Tammy

    • Thanks, Tammy. Whew.

  3. So sorry to hear that you have been struggling through this… it is a good reminder that (no matter how it appears, no matter how much it seems like other are somewhere we ourselves wish we could be) everyone has their own quiet struggles. Sometimes it seems like too much- to be a good person, a good spouse, a good parent, a spiritually connected creature, a productive and law abiding citizen, a financially stable family… blessing and congratulations to you and yours from me and mine… <3

    • Thank you, Erika. It is so much. And, yes, we all have our quiet struggles. It’s good to share the hard stuff, so we know we aren’t alone. It’s gloriously hard, life.

      • You never have to worry about that no matter how alone you may feel at times, you are never alone in your struggles we are all here for you as much as we can be. I don’t think I have read a post with more love and affection. I am so happy that it all worked out. Bravo

  4. I gasped when I read your blog! Then read all has Thankfully worked out for you and your family Hari. I am from British Columbia Canada and have been following your blog since before you started building your new place. I love seeing and reading how your doing, and everyday I look forward to any updates and will continue too. I so admire you and all whom live in “Tiny houses!! Here’s to your hard work, love and support from your family and friends..even from us here in Canada. High five…Hari

  5. A few years ago my family had to do something very similar, starting over after a disaster and we too built a “tiny” house. It was our shelter and our healing and I applaud you and your family.

  6. My heart goes out to you – what a painful and exhausting time this must have been. I’m so glad you had your private subscribers to share it with, it’s so hard to be fighting a battle like this alone (one of the things I think us tiny house dwellers could work on a little – to set up support systems in times of need/crisis).

    One thing I immediately thought upon finishing reading this post was that you’ve now set a precedence for other tiny home dwellers in your area. That’s a pretty big step forward. Thank you for that!

  7. I could almost feel it as I read.. So glad that it’s all working out. Sending you my best wishes.

    • Thank you so much for sharing, I am very happy to hear it has worked out for your family. I am just beginning the Tiny House journey. It would be great if you could email me since I am in Va too.

  8. Its 2:45 in the morning & i cannot sleep-so please disregard the gross gramatical errors & spelling. So i have read a lot of your blog and find the need to share some of my story – as we are currnetly living out. Thank you for sharing your story & your life. We are about to begin our tiny house adventure too. This is a decent account of December 2012- February 2013 – talk about fast paced life changes!!! We were going under fast, as our very successful 20 yr old retail music business began a downward spiral due to the uncertain times & the economic changes. A couple of years ago we lost our retail financing (so as everyone else using the same industry specific company) and they gentally demand all accounts paid immediately. This took a drastic toll on us & our business as the majority of our accounts were pay as sold accounts & some on terms. All inventory had to be paid out of pocket mostly upfront from there on out. That killed us! Next thing you know we had our business on the market to sell. Two deals went belly up. Next we found ourselves paying our employees and not paying ourselves(almost all last year). Debt piling up fast, rent accumulating & taxes accruing. We were going under. Being served papers for foreclosure on our home in town & our farm land in the country as well as an eviction noticeafro our business & a few lawsuits – we found ourselves considering things that before we never would have. A couple of weeks before we were evicted a friend/customer of my husbands asked about being a partner with him and helping to save our business as he could see it was going under slowly but surely. My husband was greatful but said he would rather just sell it as the debt was too much for the business to handle and in order to save the business he had to sell it. This was a great business that my husband had built up from nothing & he was so connected to it – as he was it and was he (gramitically & incorrectly speaking). The friend took him up on it and we were ale to make the arrangments and closed on the deal within a few weeks. Walking away paying off as much business debt as we could with nothing left for ourselves. A scary thought became our reality- we were officially broke & jobless. I have been homeschooling our teenage daughter this year & haven’t been in the work force for the last 4-5 years aside from helping with our business. Next, we put our 1st & only home on the market mostly to appease the bank but also to sincerely try to sell it. A little less than one week away from our home going on the courthouse steps to be sold we arranged for some aquaintances to view our cool and oh so unique home and they fell in love. This house showing was way over due as they had been asking to see our house for well over a month and due to pride & our crazy schedules we failed to make it happen. Now the last dreadful letter was received in the mail a couple of hours after agreeing to let them come see it -this letter stated our house would be going to the courthouse steps in less than 2 weeks. We decided to show the house anyway. Making a great effort to show up our home that we loved dearly ended up making them fall in love with it just as we did. Again, we made no money on this deal and we now have 1 month to pack all of our belongings up and make a move (as of February 4, 2013). I have always said I would never live in a trailer again as I lived in a few growing up & one in college for a short bit. Now having no money to our name and needing to find somewhere to live we began a search for a trailer. Oh my word, a trailer! Using the excuse that I didn’t like the idea of living in a trailer during tornado season, I believe my pride had more to do with it than anything. Quickly we realized that we just couldn’t afford to buy a new or used trailer. I now need to mention we have an old trailer on our farm land that is absolutely disgusting due to a tree falling through the roof a couple of years ago and by the time we discovered it the damage was done – rain, snow mold etc. Here we are…. The trailer was looking like chopped liver and now it’s looking like a fat juicy steak. Lol. We drove out there late yesterday afternoon & unlocked the door and determined a good bit of the floor needs to be removed & all the cabinets throughout as well as patching the shingled roof and odds and ends here and there. We have leftovers from some realestate remodels we flipped in the last few years which includes doors, sinks, countertops & 3 sets of pretty nice kitchen cabinets and a good bit of paint.
    I must also mention during this time my husband decided to go back to school (all day Saturday classes) at a Christian college an hour away to finish his degree. He is so smart & can do just about anything. He started in mid January of this year & will be done in November of this same year.
    Can we pull this off in time to move? Can we do this and homeschool? Can we do this and retain our sanity? Can we do this wth no money? My answer is, YES! And the reason is that during this last year we came to know God in such a way that we had never before thought existed. We now have a personal relationship with Him. As husband & wife together we pray & read the Bible daily.
    There is so much more to our story, so much more that happened to us during the 1st part of last year that was absolutely beyond devastating in personal ways – and that was the ULTIMATE turning points for my family. Praise be to God! He loves us all!! For I have learned there isn’t an unforgivable sin & He has absolutely great plans for us all. I hope I get to the point where I can share my whole story much like you have been on your blog. I know we can do this but for those of you out there that believe in God & are Christ Followers please keep us in your prayers. We are in a great Spiritual Warfare battle & the enemy is quickly loosing ground. Please pray for my family. Monday morning we shall go at it. Praise be to God for delivering us from the depths of debt, and so much more. And… For those of you that don’t know, believe or have hope or faith in God – I pray that you will come to know Him soon.

    Through Him, In Him, With Him we all are saved. Sincerely, Shannon

    • Deep breaths and prayer for you and your family, Shannon. I am grateful to have the space for you to share your story and grateful that you trust us with this vulnerability. It is helpful when we share these stories, because we are not alone in the struggles–we share all of the struggles–they make us human and alive. What a heart-wrenching time. It’s these times when we are cracked open that let our light shine more brightly. I am glad your faith is moving you through. Sending lots of love.
      xo
      Hari

    • Thank you Shannon for sharing your story and your faith in our Lord and Savior. He has great things in store for you and your family. He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world.
      Have a blessed day!
      Susan

  9. I HAVE BEEN SO EXCITED ABOUT PURCHASING A PARK MODEL 400 SQ FT HOME.
    I WANT TO LIVE THE SMALL HOUSE LIFE. TINY HOUSES ARE TOO SMALL FOR MY COMFORT. I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIND PROPERTY THAT WILL ALLOW IT.
    IT IS CONSIDERED A SINGLE WIDE ALTHOUGH IT IS BEAUTIFUL ANDNOTHINNG AT ALL LIKE THE OLD TRAILERS. IT IS A HOME.
    I WOULD LIKE TO LIVE IN TOWN WHICH IS EVEN MORE DIFFICULT TO GET APPROVAL
    I PROBABLY COULD FIND PROPERTY WAY OUT IN THE COUNTRY. I AM 65 YEARS YOUNG AND DO NOT WANT TO ISOLATE MYSELF IN THE COUNTRY.
    MY BUBBLE HAS BEEN BURST. MY DREA MAY NOT BECOME A REALITY. LAND COST MONEY AND SO DOES WELL AND SEPTIC. IF I COULD FIND SOMETHING IN TOWN I COULD HOOK UP TO CITY WATER AND WASTE. WE ARE JUST WAY AHEAD OF THE TIMES SOME WHERE DOWN THE ROAD EVERYONE WILL CATCH UP. FOR NOW THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED . I AM LOOKING INTO NOW TO STICK BUILD A 400 SQ FT HOMESO I CAN LIVE IN TOWN.
    I DO NOT SEE MANY POSTS ABOUT THESE PROBLEMS. I WISH THERE WAS A THREAD JUS FOR THIS TOPIC AND SEE WHAT SOLUTIONS YOU HAVE COME UP WITH
    PLSIF ANYONE HAS ANY SUGGESTIONS PLS SHARE. AT THIS POINT I AM FRUSTRATED AND TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT MY NEXT PLAN WILL BE

    • I think trying to stick build a 400 sq ft home is a good next step. Wishing you lots of luck.

    • i live in fulton, in. our town has an law against mobs. BUT if i were to set it on a permanent foundation it “ain’t a mob no more”. permanent in being poured concrete or block foundation. billy

    • 400 sq ft. look at garage packages. you don’t get a cheaper deal when you buy a package, you get all the material to build with. they can be customized as you really are buying a materials list of product. shape can change. if you can use someones garage to lay out floor. also get rough ins for everything. appliances, doors and windows. everything. it will really frost you when go to install things and they wont fit. enjoy. billy

    • Hi

      I’m 44 and having the same problem. You see these wonderful stories about living Tiny home living online. But they NEVER go into detail about zoning, location…etc. I’ve tried finding a spot in/around the city and it’s illegal in most States. You could move off grid. Really? Who has money for septic…etc? Try contacting a Realtor for help. Ha! They think you’re crazy. Trust me…tried it a few times.

      I lived in my car for 5-6 months. It was interesting. The new term is Stealth parking. Had a $10 a month membership at Planet Fitness. They’re open 24/7. Used their facilities for bathing. Couldn’t just walk in and shower. I had to actually work out so it wouldn’t be obvious. Then there’s $130 storage for my work clothes..etc. Tried my best cutting back on eating out. Purchased a Coleman camper stove and cooked in the park. That got old unpacking the cooking supplies, preparing them, cooking, cleaning up and packing up again. Seemed like hours. Plus, people look at you crazy. Then there’s the ice issue. One or two bags a day for my cooler. That adds up, too. Hot days are hell! Cold days/nights are another issue. I’m prior military. So, less of a problem adapting.

      • You sound super. I love it. I wish you luck

  10. I have the same issue as you did with not being able to “live” in my tiny home on wheels on my “own” property in Wisconsin. I can “camp” in it, but not “housekeep” or “live” in it. They have not given me written notice yet to stop living in it. They can fine me $200 a day, and if I don’t pay then I can go to jail. For what? Living economical and environmentally friendly? I received a composting toilet permit and haul water in. I also received a camper permit to allow my “camper – tiny house” to be on my property year round. I guess this does not allow me to “live” in it year round. I will try what you did and try to get a Certificate of occupancy. So start with an engineer to make sure everything is code? And then get the building inspector to inspect it? Wish me luck.
    -Ben

    • Respectfully approach your building inspector. Ask him/her what you need to do to satisfy the requirements. If you meet the minimum size requirement for your county’s zoning, then you could apply for a single family dwelling permit–this is the path we took. The engineer acts as a third party inspector since your building is already constructed. Our inspector accepted a stamped letter from a structural engineer as the inspection.

      If you don’t meet the minimum requirements you should look into a variance.

      I’m sorry you are dealing with this. Show the inspector that you want to comply and make them your ally. They are more likely to work with you if you approach them with a positive and respectful attitude. Remember they are not the ones responsible for zoning regulations.

      Good luck!

  11. Wow, Hari, I had no idea you were going through this. I understand your fears…..the inspector walked through our house, and asked “what IS this? How can you live in it??!! Who would WANT to live in it?” It hurt so bad! It was all we could do to scrape together the money to buy our little home. I know it did not look like much to the outside world, but it was my shelter, our home. We never asked for money from the government….we never asked for help…..we worked so hard to get this, it was going to protect us, give us a strong nucleus to start over after losing our home. We would be safe in this house….and he acted like it was a shack in the woods. To tell the truth, it took a long time to develop pride in my house. I had to write about it as if I were proud of it, and not ashamed.

    I AM proud of it, of what we have accomplished.

    I hope the best for you also, Shannon, Ben, and Prema. You will be ok, I promise. Don’t give up too early.

    My family and I live in 320 square feet

    • Oh my Debra, that inspector doesn’t sound like a very nice person. I love your house and you are an inspiration. We are doing it, living within our means and building a strong foundation. Like you’ve said before, if only everyone could experience this.
      xo

    • hi i need a shoulder to cry on
      i moved from ca to nc knowing exactly what i wanted, buy a pice of property and put a park model on it. very simple idea and a very simple life. i am 65 years young and have been very excited with my coming adventure.
      my bubble has been burst. i called the zoning commission today only to find out not only are park models not alllowed in the city, which i expected but they are not allowed anywhere in the county.
      park models are considered to be rvs and rvs are not allowed. this is not the only problem i have had. the cost of the park model plus land adding a sewer and septic and clearing land brings me way over my budget.
      i am at a loss as to what to do next
      has anyone had these problems and can anything be done to get around these antiquated laws?

      • O Prema, I am so sorry. I know – we had the same issue. We finally had to move to a different county, an hour from where I wanted to live, near my family. That was my workaround…..

        The other thing I found…. you will need to stop calling it a ‘Park Model’. That is what I have. I started calling it a ‘mobile home’ – which is not favorably looked upon either, but permissible, as long as I am in a mobile home park. The authorities are prejudiced against the name ‘Park Model’. It was difficult to find a mobile home park that would accept something as small as mine…. but we persevered and found an older place with elderly tenants who are happy to have us around.

        You must ‘endeavor to persevere’…..

        • also if i call thepm a manuf home do you think it would get by an zoning inspector

  12. thank you debra for your words of encouragement
    i have been on the internet most of the day and have come across manuf. homes that are just slightly larger than a park model. i am looking into this now. i will still have a very difficult time finding land for a manuf home but at least it will be legal . fyi google small manuf homes to see what i mean. having a difficult time finding pictures of them. have only pictures of plans. this is getting harder and harder to accomplish. i have to check the prices of these to see if it is even feasible to me financially. i could bevery happy in a 400-500 sq ft. a big house to some haha. i would not be comfortable in a tiny housewithout a space for a cushy couch and a bedroom downstairs and full size appliances. we all have different needs.
    may i ask you what type of park model you have and ru happy with it?
    who set it up for u did u put it on permanent foundation? how much did you need besides purchasing the park model for septic well and set up and clearing of land. i hope i am not asking questions that may be to personal. it would give me an idea of how much i need. pls only answer what you r comfortable answering. thanking you in advance. congratulations for your accomplishments and your hard work.
    seattle being a progressive city has allowed putting park models in yards for parents. what a concept. looking forward to our reply and anyone else that can give me any info

    • Hi Prema,

      I meant to say you can use your own park model, just describe it as a manufactured home instead of a Park Model, I hope that makes sense. It is all in their perception and how you frame your home. It is still new concept, that of building your own manufactured home, so the authorities just freak out when you tell them “I had it built’, or ‘I built it myself’. Just give less information.

      We had ours built by Scott Stewart of Ozarks Best – he built all three of our buildings.

      I did not purchase land – it is too expensive in our area because of Walmart – going for 25,000 to 50,000 an acre, these cow pastures are out of our possibilities. Our county requires three acres per single house dwelling, even if it is a tiny home. Just coming out of a foreclosure due to unemployment……this was not within our means. Instead, we searched high and low and we finally found a Mobile Home Park in a neighboring county, outside of town. The septic, water, and electricity is already in place, we just pay $125.00 for a quarter of an acre + utilities. So far the owner has been great – we even run a business out of our spot.

      All said, you may have to consider moving somewhere that your home is permitted. We have space here 🙂 My approach was to assume we are legal, and call my home a mobile home, not a park model, when getting all the hookups.

      Hari, I hope you do not mind we are using your blog as a forum 🙂

      • Debra, I don’t mind one bit. I’m glad we are able to help each other.

        Prema, I agree with Debra. So much depends on how you talk about your home. If possible, seek out a county that does allow small homes, or a place that allows multiple dwellings on one lot. You will figure this out. I have the faith. It takes the creativity and determination you possess.

        Thanks for being so helpful, Debra

    • I am also looking into a Manufactured house. It is quite a bit bigger than my 128 sq ft tiny home I would love to live in. They are fairly cheap, but it is the site preparation that takes some money and zoning inspections. I need a holding tank and water source to hook up to the manufactured house. From my understanding Mobile and manufactured houses are the same, except Mobile are houses built before 1976 and manufactured are anything after that. They have a different set of building requirements too. I just glanced at them, and I don’t know if a tiny house could be considered a manufactured house according to some of the building requirements…

      • in my city and county tiny homes are considered as rvs making it impossible to meet zoning codes. at thispoint i am finding it difficul t to find property for a manuf home. as you said after hooking up to well and septic i am going out of my price range. we are on the cutting edge of this philosophy and hopfully will be paving the way for those after us. i believe it will take some time
        fyi seattle being a very progressive city is allowing parkmodels to be put in the backyards of their children so families can stay together. if only every city saw it like this. iam keepingmy options open and see where it takes me. i will keep u updated.

        • I found out that many counties in Minnesota do not require a well or septic (if you have a composting toilet or outhouse) for your year-round tiny house. Since I am a native of Minnesota, I may start looking for land in Minnesota to put my tiny house on.

          • Interesting. Can you point to a website? Fellow Minnesotan here, and am intrigued.

          • An example of a counties website:
            http://www.stlouiscountymn.gov/LANDPROPERTY.aspx

            This is the county I bought land in that is tiny house living friendly.

            You will have to research the zoning requirements based on the county you want to buy land in.

      • Home-made manufactured homes might be difficult to pull off. Manufactured homes are regulated by HUD and must meet those building requirements. I’ve seen the term “mobile home” used to describe manufactured homes pre-1976, but also used more generally as a mobile house that is not an RV, but not a manufactured home either. Seems like tiny houses could fit this definition. Trying to navigate this zoning stuff myself right now…

  13. I am soldier in the USARMY & I live in a little home in a nice mobile park. I had this nice trailer way before I was married & I was lucky to get station near my hometown which is about 10mins away from the military post. I get BAH/Base Pay like everyone else but I don’t pay rent/mortgage because the home is all mine! All I pay is $70 a month plus $500 for utilities, food, clothes, & etc. My skill requires me to be at that post for a long time so I save a lot of money. My wife is teacher as well. I can’t imagine someone tell us to leave while I save so much money! I plan on saving my money to buy other smaller homes & rent them out! I’m a big fan of your FB page its given me so much pride into where I live!

  14. We dealt with it as well and were forced to take down our home after losing a year of appeals. Free country my ass. the progressives have destroyed our nation with constant regulation that favors the rich all the while saying they are for the poor. I live in a democrat run town with a democrat run zoning board. they felt my home was not safe, then they felt it would be a risk to property values in the area. I will never support a democrat again as long as I live.

    • Yes, it seems like we are not living in a free country in some counties. I had the same issue with counties in Wisconsin. They require 900 sq ft for a year-round dwelling. I tried for a variance, but they did not grant it. But across the border in Minnesota, many counties do not require a minimum sq ft for a year round dwelling. I am now looking for land in Minnesota. Just make sure to contact the zoning administrator of the specific county you are thinking of building your tiny home in to avoid some of the headache. Hopefully the counties that require minimum sq ft will open their eyes.

      • Ben, I have been researching as much as I can about tiny houses, I have only just learned about them, and I now have a dream to build one on a flatbed trailer. I am currently in Wisconsin as well and I was hoping to find a way to build it while living here and then live in it once I move. Would you be able to tell me where I would be able to see the information on regulations and building requirements for the state of Wisconsin? I would love to learn more and possibly write letters to those who could have the power to change these requirements.

        • Each county has different regulations on zoning. Normally you can find the zoning info on the counties website. For building Wisconsin uses the UDC (Uniform Dwelling Code), but this only applies to structures that would be used as a dwelling and meets the zoning requirements. Also, I do not think you need a building permit if you will build on a flatbed trailer, but again each county is different. Most counties in WI will not allow you to live in an RV (or tiny house) unless it passes the UDC and meets the zoning requirements (minimum sq ft). You should be OK if you already have your main house, and just building your tiny house. You can say you are living in the main house. But if you are trying to live in your tiny house by itself, chances are they will not like that. That is what happened to me. One thing in Wisconsin is you will probably have to get it evaluated by the WI State Patrol to use it as a Travel Trailer (RV). I just had to send in a few pictures of it and they sent me an RV license plate and title. Also, many counties would like you to get a “Annual Camper Permit” to allow an RV to be parked on your property.

          Wisconsin I found is really not an ideal place to try to do Tiny House Living. So many regulations that make it impossible for this – mainly the minimum sq ft which is 800 sq ft (at least in Douglas County). I am going to be moving my Tiny House to Minnesota (St. Louis County). There they do not require a minimum sq ft or even a well & septic (if you have a composting toilet). I will be able to live in my tiny house finally! Good Luck.

  15. Congrats for hanging in there and fighting for your dream!!!

    My wife and I want to retire into 300sqft. But we don’t want to live in a crowded trailer park.

    Our hope is :

    – in Florida
    – Less than 1 mile of gravel from paved road
    – Less than 5 miles to major interstate
    – Less than 15 miles to Mall and Hospital
    – City Power and Water
    – Wooded would be nice
    – Legal and Safe

    Is this wish list obtainable?

    Please email me at jc @@@ cyberpine com

    • Congrats on having a dream and a list of desires. This is a huge step toward achieving what you want. I am sure that you can find what you are looking for with a lot of searching. Central Florida might be a tough place to find this, but if you go to less populated areas, I bet you will find it. Good luck!

    • Fl. has a rule that your home must be 800sq ft. They just passed a law that you cannot live off the grid. If you have solar panels you are required to hook up to your counties utilities. Florida is not Tiny House friendly. I have been searching for 6mo and the answer’s are all the same NO you cannot live in a tiny home! If caught you will be fined. You are not even allowed to live in a travel trailer on your own property for more than a few mo. And you must be hooked up to the counties utilities 🙁 Your only option is to live at a campsite. Most campsites have a 6mo county regulated rule. The way they get around it is,pull it off for 24hrs. Place it back for another 6mo. It’s a shame that one cannot live in a Tiny House if they choose to do so. You know in other countries people are allowed to live in one with no problems. Makes one wonder who lives in the Land Of The Free… Belize, Guam, Most all islands and Mexico are all Tiny House friendly!

  16. hello everyone. I am here to give an update on my housing situation.
    It was getting more and more complicated to have a park model home.

    I was so lucky to have found a 550 sq ft small cottage, yellow with blue trim. it has been updated, painted and ready to move in. I have a little creek with about 1/4 acre, just perfect for me. it is also fenced for my 2 dogs. I have exactly what I need and happy

    there are many ways to go about living small and I found one that works for me.

    • Great news, Prema. Congrats! It sounds just beautiful. And it’s true: “There are many ways to go about living small.” Good for you.

    • How did you find a small piece of land ? so hard to find small affordable pieces of land.

      • Lots of looking! There is affordable land out there, you just have to look far from urban areas.

  17. My son and daughter in-law are in the middle of their tiny home on trailer project, but I am terrified that it will be on the road and it has not been inspected. They are not builders and are using some ancient plans. Where would someone check rules for California or even start to find out parameters? Barb

  18. I am so sorry ur not able to have a tiny house in fla. it does not surprise me. it is a very conservative state. nothing different allowed. they r also afraid of losing tax dollars and want u dependent on all of their utilities. lighten up fla

  19. Oh how I feel your pain….
    The heart wrenching feeling of someone telling you that your simple living is not good enough. That your debt free life style is not the right choice. That all of the hard earned money you had made over the years will be gone when we come and take your home and property away.

    I am sitting in my converted school bus as I write you about my crumbling hopes and dreams.

    When I was young, I would constantly spend my time trying to figure out how I could live sustainably. The constant question was, “how can I change my lifestyle so that I did less harm to the world that I loved so much”? a few years ago, I had come up with my solution! A tiny house!!
    That was it! Now, I know that it didn’t solve all of life’s problems, but at least I could be trying my hardest, day in and day out to be better.

    I am fortunate to have a partner who has had all of the same desires as me. When he was young, all he ever wanted to do was to build a home on a snowcat chassis. His first plan for this housecat came 20 years ago, before most people had even heard of this “tiny house” idea.

    But let it be known, it was a dream for the two of us for years. So finally we bought ourselves a 1964 International school bus that we have named “Harvey”. For just under $2000, it needed a lot of work, but we knew that Harvey had character.
    Harvy had already been previously converted into a home (partially converted) and he was beautiful.

    So we began the makeover. we tore off all of the old cedar shingles which covered the sides, only to find completely rotten plywood lie beneath….
    Now our plan was not to start from scratch, but we did. we tore off all of the old plywood and did the construction right.

    It’s been about 2 years from when we purchased Harvey and he sure has come a long way. I feel the way you felt Hari, when all you would expect someone to say is, “That is the coolest thing I have ever seen”.

    So we began to realize that we needed a place to put Harvey so that we could legally be able to park it and live in it. So we bought all that we could afford. A 5 acres parcel in a town that we had lived in for years.
    There were a few interesting zoning issues that came with this property, and we understood. The zoning issue was, no building permits would be issued. But we figured that was fine, because we live in a school bus, there is no permanent foundation. My partner and I had decided to go in and talk to the countys planning director to make sure that everything that we were planning on doing was legal. He said that it’s a gray area, but yes it was legal.

    So we now own a 5 acre property and a beautiful cedar shingled school bus. We should be living the dream.

    Wrong.

    This past summer I spend countless hours in county meetings dealing with county officials who are telling me that we are not allowed to live on our property.

    It was a true shock to find out that the county wants to take us to court to possible confiscate our property and force us to be homeless. literally…

    My partner and I are allowed to camp indefinitely on our property according to county zoning regulations, so we figured seeing as our bus is registered as a Motor Home we would qualify as “camping”, due to the fact that they have no definition between “permanent dwelling” and “camping”.

    We now are at a standstill with the county, waiting for a response as to what form of action they will be taking. They are trying to change the definition of camping by adding a time limit on how long you can camp and will try to retroactively enforce this new definition upon us.

    I am sick and sad to see that I can be forced off of my own property for choosing to live off of the grid and sustainably.

    This basically sends the message that you must be hooked up to a power source with running water and no you are not allowed to be self sufficient.

    If you have any advice please let me know… it’s a scary time.

    Thank you,
    Brittany & Dalton

    • I’m so sorry that you are going through this difficult time. This was truly one of the hardest times of my life. I will add more to my response in a bit. Hang in there.

      • Hi Brittany,
        Any new developments? The waiting game is the hardest. I’m wondering if you’ve tried to get a petition signed? Is there any community support you can drum up? Let us know if you create a petition and we’ll share it.

    • We went through something similar, we had planned to live in our rv with our children on our property (that we own outright) while we saved to build our home. We managed 3 months before the building inspector had received so many phone calls from passersby about us camping for so long, that he sent DCFS out to make sure the kids were ok, which of course they were. The man was so rude and intimidating to us that we packed up and left immediately. I have no delusions about DCFS being on anyone’s side but their own. Camping on our property is not illegal, but not “desirable when you have children” we were told. Ugh. Now we debate, go back when we have our savings ready and immediately start building to keep people from freaking out, or sell it and try again elsewhere. Sigh.

      • I’m sorry to hear that you are dealing with this, Dana. It is unfortunate that the department called DCFS. That doesn’t make sense to me. Sending you understanding and courage. You will figure this out!

  20. The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” (Benjamin Franklin)

    “We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little partial, local interests, our projects will be confounded and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, or conquest.” (Benjamin Franklin)

    “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters. ” (Benjamin Franklin)

    “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” (Benjamin Franklin)

    “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty.”

    A WISE MAN !!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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