The Big Future of Tiny Houses (Part 2)
On the Spot: getting around the red tape. On the Go: are you ready to hit the road, Jack?
Tiny houses are still a relatively new phenomenon, and local councils and governments aren't 100 percent sure how to go about regulating them yet. Things are moving a-pace though, and collaboration between councils and tiny homeowners is helping to open channels of communication. Here's the low-down on what classification you can claim for your tiny build, where you can live and how to go about settling in.
Tiny House Classifications
Since there is, as of yet, no actual classification for a tiny house, you can slot your project into any of the following categories:
- Recreational Vehicle (RVs): can only be legally lived in over a set period
- Trailers: lower registration and renewal fees
- Mobile Homes: the minimum square footage is rather large, and they are required to have their tires (and sometimes the trailer tongue) removed and secured to the ground when parked.
- Sheds: must be built on foundations, and are not allowed to be plumbed
- Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs): must be constructed on foundations and share the building lot of a larger, primary house
Each classification comes with its own red tape, regulations, and specifications, so be sure to research which one suits your situation best. If you do happen to draw the council's attention, there is a high risk that you'll be moved on!
On the Spot
While the legal world is still coming to grips with the tiny living movement, flying under council radars is your best bet. However, this is only recommended for tiny houses on wheels.
One of the more informal ways around the issue of parking is to deal with landowners directly. Simply consider what you need (full sun for your solar panels, drinking water, etc.) then go to the landowners with your proposition. Landowners are more likely to agree to rent to you if you've thought of issues such as space, water, waste management and power. Bonus points if your house is aesthetically pleasing! Once you're settled, simply stay out of sight and try not to aggravate anyone...
If you're buying your own land, think about practicalities, such as access to water or power and waste management solutions. It's also crucial to check the town's zoning laws, building codes and other regulations before making yourself comfortable! The easiest way is probably to call the town council directly and enter into a dialogue with them. If they're not tiny house friendly already, it might be your job to get them there!
On the other hand, there is an ever-increasing roster of tiny-house friendly cities, where tiny houses have been legalised and regulations relaxed.
Here are some useful resources to homeowners looking to park their tiny houses:
On the Go
Most tiny houses are built on wheels, using a trailer as a foundation. While trailers enable you to bypass a few pesky codes and regulations, they also give you freedom. Freedom to choose your location, freedom to change your location, freedom to holiday and road-trip in the comfort of your own home. But how do you make sure your home is ready to hit the road?
I Like to Move It, Move It
Most tiny houses are vehicles first, and houses second. This needs to be taken into account when designing the exterior, interior, plumbing and wiring, which must all be able to withstand the abuses of the road.
A hard-wearing and waterproof exterior that's easy to clean will make your life a lot more pleasant. Tiny houses that travel get grimy—there's no way around this—but some exterior finishings are easier to clean than others.
Built-in or securable doors, furnishing and amenities mean you can be confident that your interiors will stay in place, no matter wither the wind takes you.
It's also a good idea to have some solar-powered night lights on your tiny house, to improve your road safety (and look super cool!).
If you plan on driving your own tiny home, the whole structure will need to be light enough so that it can be transported by a vehicle readily available to you, and narrow enough for you to manoeuvre comfortably.
The weight distribution of your tiny house is also essential: an imbalanced trailer can result in unsafe swerving. A good rule of thumb is to have 60 percent of the total weight between the centre of the wheels and the front of the trailer. You can also purchase a weight-distribution hitch.
Luckily, there is always the option of hiring professionals! If your tiny house is broader and more cumbersome than you and your vehicle are comfortable handling, this is a good alternative.
There is a lot of red tape regarding how wide and high you can go before you need to file for a permit from the DOT and provide a travel plan. These restrictions will differ between countries, states, provinces, and counties, so be sure to make enquiries about the necessary procedures before embarking on your tiny house journey!
It's also important to consider the route you plan on taking, devising ways around any potential challenges such as narrow roads or bends and overgrown vegetation.
Ready for the off?
Here is a hypothetical to-do list when preparing to move a tiny house:
- Re-assess belongings and donate anything unnecessary.
- Place books, electronic gadgets, kitchenware, jars, decorational accessories etc. into boxes or in a secure storage location within the tiny house.
- Clean the composting toilet and greywater container.
- Make sure the tow-vehicle is fuelled up.
- Secure anything like bicycles, outdoor deck/steps/furniture, food storage containers in the tiny house or tow-vehicle.
- Screw plywood on the windows facing the tow-vehicle hitch.
- Secure cabinets and drawers.
- Check the tire pressure on the tow-vehicle and tiny house.
- Hook-up the tiny house to the tow-vehicle, test the brakes, and the lights.
- Lock all doors and windows.