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As the tiny house trend takes off across the United States, aspiring tiny homeowners have lots of questions. One of the biggest (and most important) questions is, where can you park a tiny house? You can create the most beautiful build, but at the end of the day, you will need a place to park it that is safe, legal, and fits within your budget.
So, where can you park a tiny house? Depending on where you live, there are many answers to this question. Tiny houses are a “gray area” in the housing sector, and there is no one-size-fits-all definition for what a tiny house actually is. Depending on what city or state you live in, there will be different laws in place that regulate the use of homes built on trailers, RVs, and small buildings with foundations that are added to existing properties.
But not to worry- the legal side of owning a tiny house might seem daunting, but there are plenty of steps you can take to make sure that your move goes off without a hitch (so to speak). We’ve come up with a number of things to consider when choosing a spot for your tiny home, whether you’re looking for a spot in a tiny house community or adventures out in the woods. Just remember, the best way to know where you stand is always to check your local laws and zoning codes before you finalize your plans.
Types of Tiny Houses
There are a wide variety of people out there living tiny, so it only makes sense that the variety of tiny homes on the market today reflects that and makes it more difficult to answer the question “where can you park a tiny house?” There are tons of different options out there, and the first place to start when looking at picking a spot for your tiny house is knowing which type it is.
Nomadic people seeking to be on the move much of the time generally look for vehicles like Airstream trailers, classic recreational vehicles, van or school bus conversions (skoolies), or even tiny gypsy wagons.
Others want to move their home less frequently and opt for more traditional builds on towable flatbed trailers. These are what most people think of when they hear “tiny house,” and while they are technically mobile, they are harder to move regularly. Though they are more difficult to transport, they have the advantage of feeling more like a traditional home than their counterparts.
The final category is tiny houses that are built on actual foundations, meaning they can’t be moved without a lot of effort. Known as ADUs (accessory dwelling units) these types of tiny homes (think mother-in-law cottages, guest houses, and even older cottage-style homes that just happen to be small) don’t have the same parking issues as the others. However, they usually require more strict building permits and approval, depending on the city.
What Does Your Tiny House Need?
Whether you have an Airstream or a towable trailer, it is important to know what your house requires when you start looking at a place to park it. Does your home have off-grid capabilities, or does it need to be hooked up to sewage, water, and electricity? While some tiny homes will do just fine parked out in a friend’s field, others will need to be in a place like a tiny house community or RV park to get the hookups they need.
Beyond what your home needs, it is also important to consider the needs of the inhabitants. If you thrive more on solitude, then a remote location should work well. However, those who crave social interaction might thrive much better in one of the many tiny home-specific communities that have been popping up all across the country within the past few years.
Where Can You Park a Tiny House: City to Country
Although legal limits exist from place to place, there are many options for parking your tiny home. When searching for space, no matter what type, networking is key, and it’s important to know what type of tiny house lifestyle you are looking for.
Friends and Neighbors
One of the most common choices for tiny house owners, especially those who are just starting out, is parking on the property of friends, neighbors, or relatives. If someone has a large yard or rural property that can accommodate an extra dwelling, that can be an ideal solution for a tiny house owner, even if only to get them started.
Unfortunately, local lawmakers do not always agree and in some areas having extra living space on a single property is not allowed. This may also depend on whether or not your home is classified as an actual house or as a recreational vehicle, as there is often a legal difference between the two. Thankfully, some cities are now changing their laws (as tiny homes grow in popularity) to both help with housing shortages as well as cultivate a spirit of cooperation between neighbors.
In some cases, tiny homeowners have parked on their friends’ properties illegally, but gotten away with it because they didn’t cause any trouble or draw attention to themselves. While the law may have the last word at the end of the day, it’s also important to remember that community can mean everything and it’s important to remember that often you are representing all tiny house owners.
Tiny House Communities
While they may be more expensive than parking at a friend’s place, rental spaces and tiny house communities offer a sense of stability that can otherwise be hard to lock down. Tiny house communities are plots of land divided up into lots that can usually accommodate a trailer house of average size, a standard car, and sometimes a small garden (depending on the designated plot sizes).
Each community is different- some require the outright purchase of the land, which in the end saves the homeowner rent costs and gives them a little more freedom to modify it to their own needs. Others rent plots to their tenants. Either way, living in a tiny house community provides homeowners with the support and comradery of people with similar lifestyles and interests.
The use of RV parks for a permanent living can be tricky, though some do choose this path for their homes on wheels. The upside to living in an RV park is that you are around a community of fellow nomads, and there are usually weekly or monthly rates available. There are also convenient hookups for water, electricity, and sewage.
The downside is that some parks have limits for how long someone can stay, meaning that you won’t be able to get too comfortable there and truly feel at home. The prices for a spot in some locations can also be fairly high, thus not the most budget-friendly option. Though they might not be ideal for long-term tiny living, RV parks do serve a valuable purpose for many tiny house dwellers, and they can be useful for those who are frequently on the road in their traveling homes.
Your Own Property
One of the most exciting, yet for many out of reach, options is parking your tiny home on land you own. This can mean either parking a tiny house on land that already has an existing structure, or buying a plot of vacant land for the specific purpose of putting a tiny house there, whether towed in on a trailer or built from the ground up.
While it might sound like building or parking a tiny house on your own land is the option that will provide the most freedom, it is critical to remember that even landowners are not exempt from the law. This includes municipal building codes, so always remember to look up the local codes regarding the type of structure you would like to have on your land. While the laws may be swiftly adapting to favor tiny homeowners, there are still wide variations from state to state and city to city that should not be overlooked.
So, where can you park a tiny house so you won’t have run-ins with the law? As previously stated, there is no one-size-fits-all piece of advice here. In the end, it is up to each homeowner to do their due diligence when it comes to local building codes and zoning laws. “Not knowing” will not be a good enough excuse if law enforcement officials cite you for violating rules you should have known before parking, so doing your research is critical.
Finding Your Perfect Spot
Finding a place to park is often one of the hardest parts of transitioning to tiny living. But once you find that perfect place to call home, it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of the lifestyle. Whether you pull up to an RV park near the beach for a few months or buy your own piece of paradise in a Portland community, just make sure to enjoy the journey and remember to do your research before you make your move.