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Legal Issues With a Tiny House

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 28, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Families are getting smaller; rental rates are skyrocketing; hipsters are headed back to the land (sort of). Hence, you have the tiny house movement, a whole lot of people trying to live within very little spaces. And whether you see the desire to live simply inside of 500 square feet an effort to save the environment or a quaint lifestyle choice, you may run into some legal obstacles getting there.

Here are a few legal issues that come with owning a tiny home, and how you can overcome them.

Real Small Real Estate

Your house may be tiny, but you still need a place to put it. This is easier if you own the land under a tiny home, but even that may come with restrictions. (See below.) If you're renting, you'll want to check your lease agreement to see if there are any limitations on adding more structures to the land, even if they're temporary.

And if your little house is on wheels, there are other concerns about where you park it:

  • At a Friend's Place: As noted above, if your friend is renting the land where they live, make sure they confirm additional structures and/or subletters are allowed.
  • At a National or State Park: Some parks have limitations on the kind of trailers that are allowed and how long they can remain parked in the park.
  • On the Street: Obviously you'll want to check local parking ordinances and you may need to move your house every now and then to comply.

Tiny Zones and Little Codes

As we noted above, just because you own the land doesn't necessarily mean you can build whatever you want on it. First, you should check whether your property is part of a homeowner's association. HOA agreements and covenants often restrict the kinds of structures you can build or maintain on your property, right down to the color of the playhouse in your backyard. And violating HOA rules can get you sued or even evicted.

Even if you're not subject to an HOA, there are local and state zoning ordinances you'll need to be aware of. These can restrict the number of structures allowed on a residential lot, no matter what size they are. And if you're building your tiny house, you'll need to acquire the proper permits and adhere to relevant building codes.

While a tiny house may help you live simply, acquiring, moving, and building your home may not be so simple. Your best bet is to consult with an experienced real estate attorney in your area who can inform you about all the potential legal pitfalls to living in a tiny house.

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