From Tiny House Decisions by Ethan Waldman

“……The biggest one of these is that tiny houses are either explicitly illegal or fall in a legal grey area when you decide to live in one full time.

The laws in your individual municipality will be different than the laws in mine, but building a tiny house will likely mean building a structure that doesn’t fit so neatly within the letter of the law. Out of this very challenge, though, comes an opportunity: One of the big advantages to building on wheels is that your house will likely not be subject to building code, because the house is not considered a building. This is good because it allows you to build whatever you want, wherever you want, without any interference. However, when you turn around and decide to live in that same house, since it’s not considered a house by the building code, it will be subject to other rules. It’ll likely be considered a “temporary structure” or lumped into the same category as an RV or travel trailer. Do you see the paradox here? You can build the house any way you like because it’s not considered a legal “house,” but that very same rule will prevent you from living in it legally full time.

As far as I can tell, even in my rural town of Morrisville, Vermont, my tiny house falls in the same category as a “camper.” The code states that campers “shall not be used as living quarters for more than 30 days within a 12-month period.” So if you take a literal interpretation of the code, I am breaking the law. And it’s likely that your tiny house will be illegal in one way or another, too:

It may be legal for you to build but illegal for you to live in all year round.

It may be legal for you to park but illegal to hook up to utilities.

The way you park it may be illegal; for example, it may need to be on a concrete slab or a certain distance from other structures.

Your loft bedroom may be illegal due to lack of egress. It may be illegal for you to build a “house” without a flush toilet.

I could go on, but I think you see the point.

I’m not saying that these laws are fair or come from a system that’s designed to encourage small or sustainable building (it’s not), but this is the reality of the current legal landscape. And it’s something that you, as a potential tiny house owner, need to be aware of….


However cute they are, keep in mind that tiny houses are still new and the establishment is still figuring out what to do with them. I have no doubt that the tiny house movement will wind up on the “good guy” side of history, but in the meantime, you may be limited by both where and how you can live. If you’re okay with this small level of legal ambiguity, then a tiny house may very well be right for you.”


The above was quote taken with permission from Ethan Waldman’s book Tiny House Decisions.