How to Use A Variance To Legalize Your Tiny House

How to Use A Variance To Legalize Your Tiny House

Legalizing tiny houses for full time occupancy is becoming easier as more and more intrepid tiny house lovers are mustering the courage to walk through the doors of their local building and zoning departments. There is a popcorn effect happening in consequence and we are hearing almost weekly about another legalization victory. The success stories all have common themes: be polite and respectful of the authorities, approach with a cooperative attitude, do your research before taking up their time, be patient, be optimistic. The most successful approach we have heard of is to ask for a variance (a deviation from the current code) from city council to allow for full time occupancy for a tiny house. In this article we interview Alex and Nicole who are building their customized version of hOMe and who recently went through the legalization process. They now have legal permission to occupy the tiny house they are building and their advice is invaluable so we wanted to share it. Thanks Alex and Nicole for paving the way for so many of us!

Hi Alex and Nicole! Tell us a little about yourselves.

how to use a variance to legalize your tiny house

Alex and Nicole in front of their not yet completed customized (and now legal) hOMe tiny house

Our names are Alex and Nicole and we are 29 and 30 years old, respectively. We are currently living in the cold state of Minnesota. Nicole and I met at college while obtaining our degrees in the sciences. After it was all said and done, Alex received his master’s degree in civil engineering (soil/earth) and Nicole received her master’s degree in environmental science. Currently, Nicole is working at an engineering firm in Minnesota as an environmental scientist. Alex decided to follow his passion of teaching and is currently enrolled and attending a 1 year accelerated master’s program in education for science.

What motivated you to build a tiny house?

The tiny house idea was mostly Alex’s. He has a passion for building perhaps because he was deprived of building tree forts when he was younger?! We have a dear friend whom Alex met in high school. Her family built a cabin in the woods near the Boundary Waters in Minnesota. We usually make it a point to spend time there each summer (and a few winters) with their family. The cabin is completely off-grid and is only accessible by boat but holds all the comforts of a fully functional house (including a sauna). Spending time at this wonderful place inspired Alex to want to build his own home someday.

The idea of living a simple life is so intriguing and inspiring. We both feel that the pace of life is often too fast, which is one of the reasons the tiny house movement captured our attention. Below are the“Top 5” reasons we want to live tiny:

1.         A sense of financial “freedom”

2.         Living in a rural area (slower pace and closer to family)

3.         Move towards being more self-sufficient

4.         Building and designing a house to fit our needs

5.         Move towards sustainable living and determining what we truly need in life for material goods.

What was life like before you decided to take the plunge?

Life was pretty complicated before we actually decided to go tiny. It really was not an easy decision. We looked into buying a small home in a rural area, but prices were very high. It’s not that we couldn’t afford it, but that we didn’t want to be tied down to a high monthly payment. One of our personal goals is to pay off student loans and become debt free so having a mortgage just didn’t fit the bill for us.

After a while of not finding viable solutions for our needs, we got fed up and decided to build our own house. To be clear, we do not have any experience building houses. Alex has done a lot of research and enjoys woodworking, but we have never built a house. So we decided – let’s go for it! We are both students of life and there is nothing that can’t be learned if you just ask Google!

What is your tiny house design like?

Our tiny house is based on the hOMe design. We purchased the building videos and the SketchUp plans. Our trailer is 28’ long and 8’6” wide – the same as the hOMe plans with the exception that we put 2×4 floor joists within the trailer itself to minimize any cold spots from the steel, which is beneficial for Minnesota’s winter climate.

We modified the layout to accommodate our priorities. Nicole and I spend most of our time in our living room so we wanted to have a nice spot to relax after work and for me to play guitar. We have about 10’ of our trailer dedicated to our living room which transitions into the kitchen, leaving 5-6’ for the bathroom.

Like the hOMe design, we have 2 lofts. Our main sleeping loft is about 10’ deep and our secondary one (spare bedroom) about 6’. At some point in the future, the secondary loft will become a bedroom for when we decide to have a child. We’re not quite sure how that is going to work out but it’s alright! We don’t need to know all the answers right now as I’m sure the tiny house will evolve with time.

We chose to sacrifice a few amenities in the interest of saving space. I gave Nicole the option of having a washer/dryer combo or a bathtub and after a lot of thought, she chose the washer/dryer option (Splendide 2100XC – vented). We will have a 20” gas range and an apartment sized refrigerator. As for heat, we purchased the beautiful Regency H27 gas stove (in enamel brown!). For hot water, we purchased a Takagi on-demand water heater. For our toilet, we chose to go with the Seperatt composting toilet. We can’t wait to start using these wonderful appliances!

You decided to go the legalization route. What motivated you to go that way? Were you worried about approaching building department?

Before we even began thinking about floor plans, we wanted to make sure that we could live in the tiny house legally and not worry about being run out of town. It was also a requirement by the landowner (Nicole’s grandmother) who’s property we are going to be living on. We had some mixed feelings about taking this project to the city council and were worried about them asking tough questions that perhaps we wouldn’t have the “right” answers to. Since the area we want to live in is rural though, we were optimistic that at least we had a chance at legalization.

What was the process like? Did you run into any opposition and if so, how did you resolve it?

At the first meeting with the zoning committee we described our project and within 5 minutes were told, “According to our city regulations, you can not do this”. To be honest, this was a huge blow. All of the preparations and decisions we had made were instantly shot down. Fortunately, the mayor quickly followed up saying, “You can certainly file for a variance” and explained that the city code is there more as a guideline rather than as a hard and fast book of rules.

Variances exist because there are always going to be unique circumstances that require a deviation from the code. After the meeting was over, the mayor briefly talked to us about our project. She mentioned she was very interested in it and hoped that it would go through! Unfortunately, in our town at least, the mayor doesn’t have the authority to give the green light for this type of thing but it certainly was a huge boost to our morale.

In filling out the variance application, we quickly realized that we were going to have to classify our tiny house as something because there was nothing in the code for tiny houses. We decided to categorize it as a “travel trailer” for the purpose of the application. The challenge though was that code states that one cannot live in a travel trailer for more than 14 days so the challenge became to prove to council that we had a legitimate reason for deviating from the code.

We also had to request for a variance from two other codes which dealt with city utilities. The first mandated that any new construction project must connect to city utilities and the second stated that a substantial connection fee must be paid. In any situation in which you are asking for a variance, you can’t just say that you want one simply “Because”. Instead you have to create a convincing case. You have to provide sound reasoning as to WHY. We had 6-7 questions that we had to answer on our variance request form.

We talked to a lot of people in our community to determine how to best answer the questions on our form. This was a very important step. Our mayor became a great ally and suggested that we state that we are caregivers to Nicole’s grandmother (which is true). Since we are a married couple, we deserve a sense of privacy in our own home while still being close enough to help Grandma with her day to day tasks. In terms of the utility codes, we stated in our argument that our structure is not permanent (since it’s on wheels), so we should not have to connect to city utilities or to pay the same fees as permanent homes.

After we submitted the forms, we had to participate in a public hearing with zoning, council members and community members in attendance. Not very many people showed up – but we did have a former mayor there to support our cause. The zoning committee then had a closed door meeting and arrived with a recommendation for the city council. The zoning committee did recommend our project, but with specific stipulations:

1.         We have to pay a $500 dollar utility hookup fee to the city (normally over 3K)

2.         We have to have our own garbage can.

3.         We have to have a yearly check-in with the city to explain how things are going.

4.         We have to keep the trailer registration up to date.

5.         We can only stay at the residence for 4 years, after which we can reapply for the variance.

6.         We can not dispose of composting materials within city limits.

After the zoning committee made the recommendation to the city council, the council members still had to vote and I am pleased to say that it was approved with a vote of 5-1!! We were pumped.

How long did your process take? Where do things stand now?

This process took about 3-4 months. It was held up primarily because we didn’t really have any idea of what we were doing. We had never dealt with variances before, so we had a bit of homework to do and a lot of conversations to have before we could apply. We were in close contact with the water commissioner throughout the whole process. He approved the two variances that dealt with the city utilities. His approval and recommendation was just as important as the zoning committee’s recommendation. City council members can be a huge asset in a project like this. The moral of this story is: be diplomatic and friendly and experts will likely be very willing to offer advice.

Were there fees? Were there any unexpected costs in the legalization process?

Ha – this is a funny question. I still have not paid a dime for any part of the variance process. No one has asked yet. I am sure we will have to pay something down the line – especially the $500 hookup fee. But we’re not quite at that stage yet. We are hoping to move in this summer – so we will probably ask questions about that then. I will probably be proactive and ask them what they need me to pay before they ask me. I want to be on good terms with everything. Honesty is key here – the council needs to trust you. Then, and only then, will they allow you to vary from the rules.

What would you recommend to others following in your footsteps?

When you approach the city council, make sure you are very professional and diplomatic. Have all your ducks in a row – having a set of plans in your hand would be really beneficial. To be honest, we didn’t have that. We didn’t want to invest in the time or money if there was a chance that it wouldn’t go through. Probably not the best strategy, but it worked for us. We went into the meeting knowing the overall details of the tiny house though.

You need to know what you are going to be doing for utilities. It’s a big deal – where will your water go, where will you dispose of your compost? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, ask for the council’s recommendation! Let them know from day 1 that you are a rule follower. You’re standing here today because you want to respect their rules and do it the right way. You want to seek their advice and recommendations. This is probably the biggest piece of advice I can give.

Tiny living, even though it’s advertised as a simple approach to life, can be a nightmarishly complex situation when it comes to legalities. The committee members recognize this and may get frustrated with you. Keep your cool and figure out a way to move forward. Different members are going to respond differently. You need to recognize their concerns and address them. If they are worried about the overall safety of the structure, say that you will have it inspected along the way. You need to be positive and offer constructive and safe ideas to get past any hurdles.

Finally, if I can do it, you can too. Is it more difficult and stressful to go the legalization route? Yes, of course. But if everything goes accordingly, there will be peace of mind and no worries that we will have to move our tiny house before we want to. For us personally, the legal route has been totally worth it so far!

Join the conversation! How about you? Would you go the legal route if you had the option? What is your strategy for where to park your tiny house?


Want to learn more about tiny house living and how to build a tiny house? Want to do so for FREE? Sign up for our totally free 7 Day Tiny House eCourse! Find out more HERE.

50 Responses to How to Use A Variance To Legalize Your Tiny House

  1. Phil Spinelli February 1, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    Congratulations on the result of you hard work. Unfortunately where I live (San Bernardino County, CA) the application would be a “major variance” and require an up-front fee of over $6,000 that is not refundable if you’re turned down. If you’re trying to build a permanent residence just a little smaller than the minimum required (725 square feet) a “minor variance” is needed, and this is over $3,000.
    Hopefully a few people will take this path and set a precedence – or even push for code changes.

    • Sandi B February 1, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

      Hi Phil,

      I am just south of you in Riverside County and am embarking on the same thing. Have you looked into what would happen if you were in an unincorporated area? I do not think you would need quite the same, if any variances. Here in Riverside County, if you are in an unincorporated area there are just not the same hurdles to jump over. You might check into that

      • Mindy S. June 14, 2016 at 11:55 am #

        Hi Sandi B, I also live in Riverside County and am curious to find out what you have found out. My 15 year old daughter is building her own tiny house and plans to keep it on our RV pad in our backyard in an unincorporated town. We have already gotten guff from our neighbor stating she doesn’t care how beautiful it will be when it is finished, she won’t tolerate looking at it over the brick fence. I would like to know what our County’s laws are so I have a leg to stand on when we finally place it in the back yard.
        Mindy S.

        • Michael November 18, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

          That is terrible, Mindy. People just love to create problems, don’t they? You can put an ugly shed on your property, no problem, but this lady is going to throw a fit over a tiny home. Unbelievable.

      • Philip Spinelli February 5, 2017 at 10:51 am #

        Hi Sandi,
        The info I stated above is unfortunately for unincorporated San Bernardino County. There is no advantage in this county in the unincorporated areas. In fact, the permit process is usually more difficult because you have to deal with 4 separate agencies, and they’re not in the same location.

        • roya April 7, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

          Hi Philip,
          I have land in Ceaderpines Park in unincorporated SB County and am very interested in alternative building and tiny homes. My dream is to have a little off grid homestead on the property. However, I’m running into a ton of zoning requirement issues and was wondering if you had any info, suggestions on how to get around this. Or at least make it manageable. I don’t even know where to start. I would greatly appreciate any info you can provide. I’ve looked int to herts, earth bag building, tiny homes, rv etc. there seems to be a rule preventing ANYTHING on vacant land in this area. 🙁 ts that true?

      • Shey February 17, 2017 at 7:01 pm #

        Hi Sandi,

        I most likely will be renting land in Riverside. Is the county pretty lenient with tiny homes?

      • Donna April 5, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

        Hi, I’m wondering how far you’ve gotten with your home plan/variance. I only land in Riverside County and would like to put an off grid home there. So I would definitely need to get a variance I would imagine. Getting utilities out there would be way too costly. Can you let me know what you’ve done, who you’ve ended up having to contact, etc.? Thank you so much. Donna

    • Shari Johns September 6, 2018 at 9:18 pm #

      Hi Phil. I live in your same county and want to build on my 3.7 archers. I see I can build a <120 sq ft storage unit without permit. I thought about a tiny house, but if the 6k deposit is still true I will go with the 3k and 725 sq ft home.
      Thanks for the comments.

  2. Megan February 1, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    Once a tiny house is legalized like this, is it legal now in EVERY state? I would assume it’s not as each state has it’s own ordinances by city. So should someone have a tiny house they move in frequently, do they then have to make it legal again everytime they move it? This could get as costly or inconvenient as being “run out of town” everytime you’re “caught.” However, is there anyway to make it legal across the entire nation? Ie: by getting it labeled as an RV by the DMV (so it can be just registered in each new state as an RV when you change over the documents)…kind of like what Tumbleweed does now? Or are there any other ideas for legalizing it across the nation? Thanks in advance for any replies and great job jumping this hurdle guys!!

    • Alex February 1, 2016 at 2:54 pm #

      Good question. As of right now, there is no way to get the Tiny House legal in every state. It seems that you would be interested in traveling. If that’s the case – it’s usually not a big deal. Most RV parks will allow your tiny house (so I have heard…). I actually knew some people who lived in their tiny house in an RV park. Remember – the RV park is zoned for this type of living, so that’s acceptable. Now if you want to stay anywhere outside of an RV park, all bets are off. The zoning laws are different and you won’t be able to live full time in a travel trailer for more than a specified time. Just as you said, each city has it’s own rule book. So if you go from city to city, wanting to permanently live, you will need to go through each cities variances. The unfortunate truth…

    • Michael November 18, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

      That would be awesome. I don’t want a house on wheels. I just want to build less than 800 square feet (the minimum in Los Angeles County) in an unincorporated area. Something around 500 square feet. If anyone has gotten variances for under 800 in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles, please let me know.

      • Leslie Robinson January 9, 2018 at 9:50 am #

        I am in same position and have property in Joshua Tree. I have a shipping container and a 40′ long RV on my property and just realized that I am supposed to have permit to build house in order to even get permit for RV and container. I wanted to build small home. I have two acres. Been through all the rules and talked with people there and am stuck???!! I am a contractor and have rescources to build a great small house but I do not have money for all the up front expenses. Just the permit and hook up fees I could build a 1/3 of my house!!! Let me know if you have learned anything. Thanks

        • Mike January 20, 2018 at 6:13 pm #

          Hi Leslie,
          I also want to live in my RV on my property in JT and plan to build a small house. I would love to hear what information you have. I am aware about the 750 sq ft minimum etc. and the cost for septic and water meter.
          I am not a contractor and could use some information and help from a pro. Is there an email address or phone no. where I could contact you?



          • lucinda cox February 26, 2019 at 3:42 am #

            Mike, I would like to contact you regarding the small house you spoke of in JT. I have a design drawn up and begining stages of material lists, and building costs. I have more designs available. I have contacted the building dept. and can guide you. Send me a message.

        • Mike January 20, 2018 at 6:20 pm #

          Leslie, Never mind… I found your contact details

        • Gail Grimes July 8, 2018 at 5:34 pm #

          Hi Leslie.
          Have you and Mike found out anything relative to tiny homes allowances in JT.? I am also looking to do this.. Thanks

          • lucinda cox February 26, 2019 at 3:44 am #

            Gail I am in the process of doing this project in jt. I can help guide you. I have designs and building plans completed.

      • Sarah August 26, 2018 at 1:34 pm #

        Hi Michael – I am also looking into building a tiny home in unincorporated LA county (up in the Santa Monica hills) – have you made any headway since posting in 2016?

  3. Stephanie February 1, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    I’m from Minnesota also, and we’re planning to move into our house within two months. Do Alex and Nicole have a webpage or email to contact them directly? I’d love their advice.

    • Alex February 1, 2016 at 2:55 pm #

      You can contact us through our facebook page, “Our Tiny Endeavor”. Would love to hear from you!

  4. vered young February 1, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    Wow, Great news!!! Congrats! unfortunately in Oak Park, IL its a similar story to the comments by Phil. Solar panels are illegal here because they look ugly. That was what i was told when i called in. 🙂 Shocking! I am a single Mom and my home is my only income. I am trying so hard to hold on to a home that cost me 4k in monthly mortage payments so my daughter can stay in her familiar neighborhood and graduate high school here with her friend. but recently my x- husband lost his high paying job and child support that used to pay for the mortgage is no longer secure. i am hosting on Airbnb for the past 3 years and that is not enough to keep this home by myself. I had just started my research into Tiny Home living and i feel better knowing there is a solution out there to the rat race I am participating in. It gives great hope ! I feel a bit overwhelmed with all the information available out there but i am trying to sort it out! tinyhousebuild is providing really great information.
    The home they built is perfect for my style of living. so beautiful, I wouldn’t change a thing. i just have to figure out how to build it myself so it wont cost me 55 or 70k. With very very little knowledge about construction, its a bit scary.
    I wish I can have them as my mentors. 🙂

    I wish you all the best! Congrats again!

  5. Nathalie February 1, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

    It’s amazing what one can accomplish with a positive, professional and open-minded attitude. From what I can see, this is a win-win solution for both the city and the builders. Let’s hope we get more of these stories so that codes all over North America are changed to allow for tiny homes. My daughter and I are looking at building the exact same model (hOme). I bought the plans last November and can’t wait to get started. Congratulations to both of you and thanks for giving us hope!

  6. Rene' Hardee February 1, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

    Great work Alex and Nicole! I too had a very positive experience with my local city officials and we are on our way to building a Tiny House Community with their full support!
    Your advice about being professional and respectful is spot on! Thank you for sharing your story so that more people will feel free to approach their officials and make Tiny Houses legal everywhere!

    • A April 18, 2016 at 1:51 am #

      It would be nice to know which city the local city officials gave a positive experience to seeking a variance.

      • Michael November 18, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

        We need a database of cities that will allow smaller homes with foundations.

      • Michael November 18, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

        We need a database.

  7. TJ Houston February 1, 2016 at 7:53 pm #

    I’m really curious. You said you got approved, but, they don’t allow composting disposal in the city limits. How did you work around that one, tell them you would be using grandmas toilet? What about water?


    • Alex February 2, 2016 at 7:52 am #

      Good questions. The design of these systems are realistically much more important than the design/layout of the tiny house, in the cities viewpoint. With that said, a lot of thought and preparation went into them. Since we anticipate living there for 4 years or so (who knows for sure…) it is definitely worth having semi-permanent utilities. Our water line, graywater drain line and electric line were placed in a 6 foot deep trench that ran from the tiny house location all the way to the front of the house (about 200 feet). All the lines came into the basement of the house underneath the foundation (this was all hand dug when we got that deep). We made the connections inside the house, which was pretty easy. But the problem was that the house is uphill from the tiny house. Therefore we will need to pump the graywater to the house. So when the water exits the tiny house, it goes into a 75 gallon sewage basin. A sewage pump with a float valve is permanently housed in the sewage basin. When the water fills up, it activates the pump, which is directly connected to the graywater drain line. The pump is strong enough to push the water through the 200′ of pipe and drain the water. As for compost materials, we will just dispose of the waste outside the city limits at my wife’s family farm. We will likely not create a compost pile, but will likely just throw it in the dumpster. Not the ideal way, but it’s not our land, and we don’t want to maintain a pile of composting poo. It may create tension to the land owners so we will just throw it in the dumpster. You have to pick your battles… Hope this helps

      • /bob February 2, 2016 at 8:25 am #

        One thing to keep in mind is that while most cities/towns “say” they don’t want poo dumped in the garbage what they won’t tell you is that they must accept it to a point. They DO accept pet poop in the garbage since there is no other provision provided to citizens for this. So a small (comparitively) amount of humanure cannot be rejected. Until tiny houses with composting toilets become present in significant numbers in a community I expect there to be no problem placing the compost toilet output in the garbage as long as you don’t highlight that activity or make a big deal about it. They really cannot say anything about it unless they start to also restrict pet poop from owners who have more than one large dog and do the same. On this note, I recently read on the web site (Opportunities page) that the city of Spur, TX does now have a compost pickup for food waste and other organic material, and humanure composting is coming soon. There is a link there to Spur Compost, and a link on that site to a sample veggie compost bin from Amazon. They do have a very significant population of tiny and small house dwellers either living there now or soon to be living there. Sounds like a very progressive city.

        • Andrew February 2, 2016 at 11:49 am #

          Interesting point Bob; however, I think there is a definite volume difference unless you empty the humanure receptacle daily and bag it. Even a large dog won’t produce the amount of poo that a family of three will. Further, dogs are allowed to poo on the ground anywhere they want, other than in cities and municipalities; however, human feces is not accepted in the woods unless it is buried, etc… I wonder if we carry more pathogens than dogs. I don’t know, but am wondering allowed… Great to hear about the Spur developments. They are making huge strides!

          • Baba MD March 29, 2016 at 10:30 am #

            As a medical professional: yes, human waste does carry more pathogens! Most of the really bad germs found in dog waste will infect only other canids, while human germs are much better at spreading human disease. So there is in fact a good reason for not wanting human waste (as opposed to dog waste) out in the woods, dumpsters, etc.

  8. TJ Houston February 1, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

    Oh yeah, and electric?


  9. Lisa February 2, 2016 at 7:48 am #

    Can you tell me about the type of property you are parked on? Is it zoned residential? What size lot? What is the proximity to the Grandmother’s house? Are you using an electrical connection from the main house or did you have to install a separate service? I could go on…

    There are so many regulations and they vary from block to block sometimes. I’m just trying to get a feel for the setting you are in for reference.

    Congrats and good luck to you both.

    • Alex February 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

      The property is zoned as “agriculture homestead”. It really is just like residential, but the house on it has been around since the early 1900’s. The actually zoning of the property didn’t make a difference at all. The size of the lot is around 2 acres and is next to 2 commercial companies. That was another piece of the puzzle that made our project unique… The mayor told the committee, this property is the most ideal property in the entire town for tiny house dwelling. No residential neighbors and it butts up to farm land. Can’t beat that! The electrical connection was tapped into the main residence. Read my above response for other utility related questions. The electrical service is tied into a RV type exterior outlet box and is 50 amps. Hope this answers some of your questions!

      • Alex February 2, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

        Another thing I should note is the tiny house resting spot is going to be behind a large set of bushes, which means it will be pretty much out of sight to passing people. Except in the winter… Privacy is another good card to play in the zoning game. It’s really important to not disturb the land owners neighbors – even if you think your not doing anything – someone might call it in, just because they can. Once a complaint is made, that’s when the city gets involved and likely eviction notices will follow.

  10. TJ Houston February 3, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

    Hahahaha!!! It sure did help, I needed a good laugh! My solution on my property, which is in a 100 year flood plain, so a septic system is financially out of the question, was to buy a used port-a-potty from a local business. I paid $200 and he’ll come and dump it for $25 whenever I call him. I rarely use it, but it’s there if I need it. When I build my tiny house I’ll do the composting thing. I’m in a 32′ camper, not ideal, but it’ll do for now. I’ve been off the grid “camping” about 4 years now. My planning and zoning guy is pretty cool, by the book, but cool. It’s the assessor you have to watch out for.
    Typical conversations go something like this.

    STRANGER: Do you live there?
    ME: Naw, I have an apartment in __ __ __ __ __, I just stay out there as much as I can.

    Now, when I get my chickens and goats I’ll have to spend more time out there to take care of them.
    If someone is getting too nosey just say, “hey, look at the birds”, and walk away.

  11. Rob February 5, 2016 at 8:26 am #

    Hi, I purchased a 110 s.f. hut in Colorado Springs. It backs right up to the Cheyenne Mountain State Park. The lot is not build-able as it is too small but the hut is grandfathered. I am going to remodel the inside and exterior of the hut but I was thinking of bringing a tiny house on wheels to the property so that I have more living space. This would be a vacation spot for me and my family to use throughout the year. The lot is zoned forestry and the area allows RV’s to be parked on the property. Any thoughts or ideas on whether I will have an issue with the tiny house. I am guessing that as long as I am a good neighbor, I don’t think the neighbors would have an issue if it is attractive. Thanks for your input.

    Here is a video of the hut and property

    • Gabriella February 6, 2016 at 11:05 am #

      Hi Rob. That’s awesome!! We love that area so much. As long as your lot does indeed allow for long term parking of an RV, you should be all set. It may be helpful to register your tiny house as an RV so that it’s really clear to the municipality that you have an RV, not a house on the property. Of course you will want to make sure that you are a good neighbor by figuring out eco solutions for dumping waste (grey and black water). Keep us posted! Would love to come visit it someday!

      • Rob February 12, 2016 at 10:11 am #

        Thanks Gabriella!

  12. JC January 14, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    I’m looking to buy a small lot in North Florida. The neighborhood it’s in has a mix of house types, but all are permanent houses. The streets are dirt roads with no sidewalks… it’s nothing fancy. For some unknown reason the lot I’m looking at is only 50×90 where most lots in the sub division appear to be 2 to 3 times wider.

    I’m about to approach the county to ask some dumb questions about setbacks, min dwelling size, approved structure types and aesthetics. I’ve been down this road in another county south of there where I had to finally back out of the deal as it was apparent building the smallest, but nicest house in the neighborhood was not acceptable.

    I live 800 miles away so I’m doing what I can from here, but any suggestions on how to best approach this? I think I can make a really strong case for why I need to be build a tiny house on that tiny lot. BTW, from the look of the neighborhood I could probably roll in anything I want into the lot without anybody caring or noticing, but then I need to connect utilities and therein begin the problems.

    • Andrew February 6, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

      Hi JC…or is it Bender? Sorry, couldn’t help but notice the profile pic. Anyway, you may want to ask about tiny houses on foundations (unless you need it on wheels). That is a much less dangerous topic for almost every jurisdiction out there. If you want it on wheels, then you want to start by seeing what’s possible (anonymously if you can call and speak with someone) and then find out what the concerns or limitations are. If there are none, you’re good to go. If there are some issues, you can research them and discover ways to address them well enough to make the officials comfortable.

      You may want to ask about using a permanent wood foundation in your area if they require the house be on a permanent foundation. Another option is to ask about permanent sets for manufactured housing and using the same system (or similar) for your permanent set. Finally, you may need to get an engineer involved to prepare the foundation requirements in a way that satisfies the building officials and simplifies your installation. Remember that you can apply an alternative design through section R104.11 of the 2015 IRC and gain approvals if the details are properly designed. The easiest option within that may be a concrete slab with anchor points for hold downs and jacks for vertical load paths. Good luck!

  13. Jess January 27, 2017 at 8:55 pm #

    I live in California, specifically in San Bernardino County. My parents purchased a brand new home 13 years ago on a half acre of land, they live in a nice suburban neighborhood where the HOA is now no longer there so the rules and regulations are now just county restrictions. Last summer my mother had a stroke and she requires constant care, my father works as a truck driver so at my parents request my family of four (husband, myself, and two children) moved back home. While it’s been nice to be here for her we miss having our privacy and having a place of our own. We have our own bedroom and our kids are sharing a room. The near by homes are completely out of our budget, we are considering building a tiny house in their backyard. If anyone has any advice on the best way to start this project, tips on county regulations etc…please let me know.

  14. Beau Wyatt March 14, 2017 at 10:13 am #

    I’m looking at some land in south Temecula, CA Riverside County. It’s very close to Fallbrook CA, San Diego County. Does anyone have any experience with putting a Tiny Home on a vacant property. The land I’m looking at has water and electric across the street. Any info would be much appreciated 🙂

    • jwdevus June 12, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

      Beau did you get any addition information on your question as we are very interested in any updates as my Sister has property across the highway from Fallbrock in Vally Center I think it is called


    • Brian Hurling December 21, 2018 at 11:10 am #

      Beau, Any updates on this, I really like that area?

  15. jwdevus June 12, 2017 at 2:39 pm #

    Any updates in 2017 to Tiny Homes in Riverside and San Diego (North) Counties!

    My family and I are very interested

  16. Roy November 15, 2018 at 3:04 pm #

    Ok, what caught my attention is that you have to re-apply for this permit every 4 years and cannot do composting. In other words, they can deny your permit or increase the fees for any reason between now and then. If that happens, what are you going to do with your tiny home here in California?

  17. Shawn February 18, 2019 at 3:00 am #

    I own vacant land in Crestline. (Unincorporated San Bernardino county). I also read that storage structures smaller than 120sf don’t need a permit.

    1) Does this apply to raw, vacant land? Or does there have to be a house built on it first?

    2) If there is no pre-existing house requirement, can I make it a recreational cabin as long as it’s under 120sf?


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