Tiny House Movement Meets Slow Progress


Tiny House

The tiny house movement has continued to grow in popularity over the last few years.  Now we have the United Tiny House Association, a Tiny House Conference, and brokerages that specialize in selling tiny homes.  Tiny houses are even the subject of television and reality tv shows.  Unfortunately, the proliferation of these tiny homes has been met with municipal zoning and land use laws.  These municipalities have been slow to react to the trend, leaving many owners of tiny homes in limbo on where they may or may not locate their tiny house.

Technically a tiny house is a house that is 400 square feet or less although most are slightly larger.  They all stem from a shared goal of simpler living, extreme downsizing, and financial responsibility.  Because some tiny homes are mobile, owners can travel the country without concern for lodging and because they are less expensive, owners are not burdened with large mortgages and unnecessary personal property.

For those that don’t want to actually “live” in a tiny house, they are useful as an office space, in-law suite or kid’s play space.  Problems arise when an owner seeks to put one of these tiny homes on their existing residential property or on vacant land.  Many municipal zoning regulations require homes to have a minimum amount of square footage and/or prohibit multiple “dwellings” on a single lot.  Many municipalities have not been quick to update their regulations to permit tiny houses and still, others refuse to update their regulations.

Tips for representing someone looking to purchase a tiny house or land for their tiny home:

  1. Confirm whether there are any restrictive covenants or deed restrictions applying to the land. If so there may be a process to amend the restrictions to permit the location of the tiny home.
  2. Contact the local municipal zoning office to find out whether there are any ordinances or regulations that prohibit the tiny home. Many times, the zoning officials will require specific lot information to be able to accurately respond to the inquiry.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the state building codes. There may be provisions that you need to keep in mind when constructing or locating your tiny house.
  4. Consider advising your client to look at land in unincorporated or township areas, that may not have restrictive zoning or building code regulations.

There is no doubt that the tiny house movement is here to stay.  Understanding the requirements of your municipality is an important first step in aiding clients through the acquisition and location of their new tiny home.

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