Are there bylaws and building codes for tiny houses where you want to build? If you are thinking of building a tiny house, then you should first check with your local government to see what bylaws and building codes might prohibit you from building or finding a place for your tiny home. Bylaws and building codes for tiny houses are in short supply at the current time.
Tiny houses are becoming ever more popular around the world and there is movement in many places to accommodate these tiny structures. But beware, not all local governments have provisions to allow these structures. Just ask Sarah Hastings from Hadley, MA. She built a tiny house of 190 square feet as a thesis project from college. She moved her tiny home to a couple’s backyard in Hadley and pays them rent. The property is four acres large so I am sure Sarah thought there would be no problem.
This all sounds good, but in November, 2015 both Sarah and the landowners were served with violations from the local building inspector. Sarah appealed this decision and the Zoning Board decided to not enforce the violation until after the May 6 town meeting. Sarah has until this time to draft and submit a bylaw that would cover her tiny house.
Hadley is currently zoned for only one house per lot. They do have the ability to approve building an apartment up to 900 square feet attached to an existing home to accommodate senior housing.
Things that have to be considered is how a tiny home would be connected to electrical and sewage or septic systems. Apartments attached to a home can be connected but how would a separate dwelling be accommodated?
And what about building codes? Do the current Massachusetts codes allow for tiny homes? Apparently they follow the International Building Code 2009 edition but are moving to accepting the 2015 one. You would think this would solve the problem of tiny homes….but NO, the 2015 edition does not include tiny houses! You can read more about Sarah’s situation here.
Now in Australia, there is also a movement to change the Western Australian planning scheme. From within local government, a councillor has put forward an amendment that would allow small, independently owned tiny homes up to 120 square metres to be put on residential blocks that are subdivided to accommodate them . The amendment would also allow adapting existing buildings into multiple dwellings.
It looks like Fremantle is way ahead of most jurisdictions. Their amendment is considering many things important to an neighbourhood such as:
- Improved diversity of housing choices in a suburban area (not just tiny houses)
- Respecting the local character of the area
- Retention of mature trees
- Biodiversity and micro-climate
- Rainwater infiltration
- Considering design control with a pattern book of designs meeting the amendment
In some jurisdictions tiny house owners go ahead and build their tiny home and hope that they can avoid the detection of local authorities. This just might cause a lot of heartache if the planning boards do not give you the option of submitting an amendment to the current plan.
It would be nice if all local governments would do as this community in Australia has, and council would start preparing to amend their local plans to accommodate different sized homes. There is a housing crisis in many communities with families not able to afford the large homes currently available. How nice if communities had some more economical options so families could own their own small piece of real estate.
There are definitely advantages to a tiny home and if you want to build your own tiny house you need all the information that is available. Browse around this site to learn more.
I would suspect that in most places anyone can submit a change to code to planning boards for consideration. My advice to anyone hoping to build a tiny home, would be to first check out how accepting your community is of these structures. Then decide what steps you should take to ensure you will be able to find a place to put your tiny house before you start. Remember, bylaws and building codes for tiny houses are rare indeed.