Towards a better tinyhouse

Inventing to freedom?

Re: The legality of tinyhouses.

with 4 comments

Re: The legality of tinyhouses.

I’m afraid I have to agree with Jay’s primary message: living in a tinyhouse is illegal. Save for a few exceptions. It is the rule rather than the exception. (Especially for economical tinyhouses which aren’t as pretty.)

I don’t like it, but after much investigating, as a result of planning and trying to make use of a tinyhouse myself, this has emerged clearly as the truth.

At first I was only interested in Ottawa, but after finding out it was not allowed here I was understandably pretty pissed. So I did a lot of reading and retained a residual interest in the subject in general, and have written a few blog posts you can find through the search function on this for more details.

Yes there are a apparently a few areas you can do it legally, yes there are trailer parks although some will not allow tinyhouses apparently, yes in some cities like Portland you can “camp out” in your backyard.

However camping out is not living there full time. I do not know but would not be surprised if you were not allowed to connect plumbing or electricity for instance. Often there is a time limit like 30 days. As far as I have seen, this is about how these loopholes go.

The government is not totally incompetent after all. If *you* wanted to make tinyhouses illegal don’t you think you could find a way to avoid leaving loopholes?

Yes putting the house on a trailer can help because you may be able to go to a trailer park, it can help you claim you are camping, it can help you dodge building codes. It can also help you dodge or reduce the impact of the cities enforcement efforts if you do break the law.

But you are still subject to zoning for instance, covenants, and probably other rules too.

A longer term view might be that you could argue that it is not the same as an RV or normal mobile home or stationary tinyhome and so deserves to be considered separately and hopefully made legal. So there is some light there maybe… but in terms of the existing letter of the law you aren’t going to be able to use the differences to successfully argue that is legal where an RV and / or mobile home is not. Check the definitions section of e.g. the zoning bylaw in your city.

When I was writing the examples of people living full time in tinyhouses post, I was actually going into it under the impression that at least a few cities are more reasonable about it. But after writing the post it was more clear to me than ever that that is not apparently true from looking at the examples available.

You can live in a tinyhouse. But can you legally live in a tinyhouse, especially of your choice, where you need to live? I can’t, I have checked. I’d eyeball it at 95% no for most people too, based on the evidence I have seen.

In other words: Succeed at what, exactly? I regard housing as only one part of my life. I can’t rearrange everything else just so I can live in a smaller home. That would defeat the purpose.

I view tinyhouses as a way to get higher quality housing at a lower price, have a lower environmental impact, get away from businesses that clearly don’t value my business, and maybe explore the benefits of portability (and maybe a couple other things that slip my mind).

Sure maybe you can, move, change jobs, leave your family and friends behind.

If you want to make your life orbit around your house. Wait, your life controlled by your house. Haven’t we heard that before somewhere? Aren’t we wanting to get away from that??

At the same time, from a physical reality standpoint, tinyhouses have a lot of potential to help people, and help make the world a better place. Which is why the illegality is so exceedingly annoying and counterproductive, and deserves to be changed.

I have it on my list of things to do to check out what happens to people who try to live in RVs in the city outside a trailer park, usually moving between backyards regularly apparently, so there might be a post on that in the future.

BTW I tried to post a comment on the blog post but it wasn’t appearing, and I don’t want to get repressed by a malfunctioning spam filter, no less, so I posted here too.


Written by gregor

March 25, 2011 at 02:14

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. Hi Gregor,

    I got my system sorted out. Looks like you triggered the troll/spammer tripwire.

    It should work now but let me know if it does it again.



    March 25, 2011 at 20:12

  2. I’ve been trying to find ways around this shitty little legality aspect for the tiny house I will be building this summer after I’m done with college.

    My original plan was to find a like minded person with a big back yard in a quiet part of town and park my little abode but I’m not sure now after being ‘enlightened’ by all the nasty laws out there.

    I wonder though…While this is still illegal, could one not say that they are renting a room in the main house and the tiny house is just used as an office if interfering eyes should interfere? Or is having a moving structure like this on your land illegal too?

    Talk about some rain on the old parade.


    April 3, 2011 at 08:40

  3. Dealing with that in a big-time way here. No one has “enforced” us yet, but we’re way out in the country with no neighbors. Here is the code for Lane County Oregon, which contains the “liberal” city of Eugene, famous for alternative lifestyles, bicycles, organics, etc…. The code is still…………unenlightened.

    11.100-10 Permits.
    Unless otherwise exempted by this subchapter, an approved building permit must be
    issued for every permanent or temporary mobile home or recreational vehicle being used
    for residential purposes in Lane County. Occupancy shall not preclude physical
    inspection of the installation, including utilities. Construction or conversion of a vehicle
    for human habitation must receive State of Oregon approval for such use prior to
    application for a building permit. Mobile homes or vehicles being occupied without a
    permit as required by this section will be abated, and violators and owners of property
    allowing such use thereon will be subject to penalties provided by LC 11.990,
    “Enforcement, Failure to Comply.” (Revised by Ordinance No. 3-72, Effective 2.10.72; 18-80, 9.5.80;
    1-00, 4.12.00)

    plain brown tabby

    August 7, 2011 at 12:15

  4. I read somewhere than in parts of Louisiana the fine is only $800/month. Well worth it if it saves you twice or thrice that, unless it gives you a criminal record.

    Nightvid Cole

    October 11, 2012 at 16:24

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