Our Tiny Home On Wheels Is A Legal Dwelling!

Our Tiny Home On Wheels Is A Legal Dwelling!

Zone Approval With Buckingham County, Virginia

Guest Post: Melanie Copeland
So we are officially legal! We are homeowners and legal land owners in the great state of Virginia. Did you ever think that you are just one person and too small to make a difference? Well, I used to think that… until I went tiny! So, want to know how? Here’s our tiny story …

We Built Our Home In Seven Days!

We built our home in seven days at a workshop with Incredible Tiny Homes!  It is a complete and functional home. And while I always imagined living tiny as a lifestyle that would allow me freedom, and less to do…Once we got our home it clearly became something different. See, we  live in the state of Virginia and after exhausting all parking options that were within the immediate vicinity of us, we ended up parking in a backyard with nowhere “legal” to go.
Our  first few weeks were spent painting and staining…and calling all campgrounds and RV parks in case zoning or someone showed up and demanded that we leave. Exhausted, hearing no after no, we spoke often of what we would say if they did show up. It was stressful and sad, and not necessarily the way I envisioned tiny life being. But, this is not a sad story – this is the story of how we made it work!
After watching friend after friend get kicked off of land and chased around the state, we decided that we would not register our home with the DMV. We held the title to the trailer, but after talking to the DMV, we would in essence have to lie to register it.
Having to call it a trailer or a trailer with a weighted secured load was unacceptable, and for my friends that did this, the DMV chased them around because every time they changed their address, they were traceable, and again fined. So, we slipped under the radar and brought it back and parked it. Three different counties refused to register our tiny home as anything even close to what it was.  Instead of being called a liar later, I figured when they show up, they can let me know what they want and we can work from there.
Because we use a professional mover, the tiny home is licensed on the road under them, so there was never a reason to have to lie to get it moved.  We moved legally. We were  also able to secure insurance, without any certifications on our  home, and without having to lie about anything related to owning  a tiny.
But, time went on, months and no one ever bothered us. We worked and lived and loved living on this property. It was beautiful and we loved our host. But, the looming fear kept winning out. So, we kept looking for a legal place to park.

Lived Under The Radar

After a year of flying under the radar, with lists of campgrounds and RV parks, we made calls again, and found two places that were now willing to let us come and park for a longer time frame. These were places that we had already called, but since time had passed, and things were starting to change, they too were changing what they accepted. The other thing we figured out was when talking to RV parks and campgrounds, the best way to figure out what they  needed was to speak directly to the owners. Most of them did not even really know what we or home was. Once we could chat, I could explain what we owned,  the conversation would change, and we would start talking about the rules, how they work, what they need etc.. and it was no longer a person calling to find out about living tiny, but a conversation that was passing on knowledge and looking for solutions.
We choose a park that was about a 45 minute commute to the city, and called our professional to have us moved again. Saddened to leave our little location, and our 20 minute commute, we left on a beautiful sunny day and rolled right into a campground.
This campground had only a few requirements to park. You must be able to roll out in a few hours, you must have insurance, hook to all the systems, and your dogs must have a rabies shot.  See, all this certification talk and zoning talk had me so scared that I was not asking the right questions. I was an non certified tiny, mostly do it yourself, with no desire to be registered. Who would ever take us ? The people I approached for advice, told me get certified and carry registration, or to register as a trailer and  tell them I owned an RV. In Facebook groups and many conversations ..it happened over and over again. All things that I really, just morally, felt were not the right things to do. We were in  a tiny house on wheels…that is obvious and manipulating the truth was not working for us.

We  Did Not Want Our Tiny Home Classified As An RV

But, park after park and zoning office after zoning office did not care about any of this. I spent hours calling and finding out what the road blocks were and why they did not want us there? I made friends that I still chat with today. Basically, they did want us. But, they have ordinances and codes that they have to abide by. Most of the counties here have certain requirements for square footage and no way to classify anything that is on wheels. They would say it was an RV and I cannot live in that full time, but then at the same time recognize that it  was not an RV because of how it  was built and understand that it did not have certification. RV certifications are placed for RV’s (in our state) and once those are attached to the home, it cannot be considered a full time home you can live in. Most places only allow you to live in an RV six months out of the year, and that was certainly not something that we wanted to do in our tiny house, so this was not even an option for us. So, again the answer was no.

Legally Parked In A Campground

Now legally parked in a campground, I headed up a group of people across the whole state of Virginia and we started looking for parking. Where can we really go, because if I can get in this RV park, then I know there must be more! Little by little we all made calls and the list got a bit longer and a bit longer. Most of the counties seemed to have a few places that people could call home. With very similar options to what I had found too. In our search for accurate information we vetted each of these places. We asked do they accept tiny houses on wheels, what are the rates, what certifications do you need to park, do you need insurance, how long can you stay, and what about pets, and what are the on grid off grid options? I have yet to find one place in my state that even knew what the certifications for tiny homes were, and most did not even care if you had insurance on your own home, although we do have that as well. Many were open to off grid options as well, which I found surprising.

Hope Is On It’s Way

While my goal was to find legal parking in RV parks, there were many counties that did not have any, so it led to us looking a bit further into the zoning in the areas. I spent one afternoon calling four counties that I had never tried before. I had long discussions with the building inspectors about minimum square footage and Virginia construction codes,

Back The Truck Up – I Can Do What?

I got a hold of a zoning official in Buckingham county. I spoke with her about what I had and what I was looking to do. Which was essentially to buy land and have a legal place to park, but also stay on my wheels so that I can travel when I want to. And her answer came back…Yes, we can do that.
What?
”Yes, I believe that we can do this”, she said. ”If you want to park in someone’s backyard, it will be considered a civil agreement and you have to be hooked up safe and proper and have a permit to be connected to the sewer.”
Ok, what if we wanted our own land?
”Yes, I think we can work with that too.” ” We can classify you as dwelling, ”( don’t you love the sound of the word- dwelling? )  and allow you to stay on the wheels, but you have to be hooked to the septic and be safe and proper with the permits.”
So, I pushed a bit farther, what about being off grid? What about  a compost toilet? To which I was referred to the health department. But, again not told no!

Compost Toilet Allowed!

So, that was the next call I made, I got a hold of a fantastic gentleman at the health department who decided it would be good if we could meet in person and talk. I agreed and set up a day to drive out there and show him what I was doing in my little hybrid tiny house.
He checked out my water system and my compost toilet, and said he had no issue with us using a composting toilet, but the state required that we be hooked to septic for the gray water to be safe and proper. I thanked him for his time, and we chatted about the land we were looking at and I told him I would be in contact.

We Found Land!

LAND – We found land! We found one acre on a main road that had a well, septic, electric and great cell service and called and took a drive, and then decided to make an offer!
We set up a time to meet with the seller’s realtor the next day to sign an offer.
I could not sleep the whole night, bad dreams, fears of being kicked off the land, being told no after everything we had done. So, the next morning I got in the car and drive down to the zoning office. I asked to speak to the lady I had been talking to but she was out. Instead I was directed to speak to the building inspector. And, I can tell ya, I was sure he was going to walk out and say…”minimum square foot requirements.” But, he actually helped me gather all the permits that I would need, told me that there was not anything that said tiny house on wheels, so we need to check this box, and write in the section these words, and offered to help us however we could, and I left. But, even upon leaving, my heart was still racing. They were really OK with me doing this.

Our Tiny Home Is A Legal Dwelling-Meant As A Permanent Residence!

See, as much as I understand the need for certifications, building codes, and even square foot minimum requirements, we met all safety and fire requirements, including egress windows in our own tiny house per our  builder (Incredible Tiny Homes) who guided us with the requirements.  I also understand current rules and laws that are in place. These are the things I was working around. While there is nothing in their code or ordinances for this specific type of dwelling, there was also nothing that was stopping them from accepting this type of dwelling. We spent the next few months chatting about how to make this happen with what is already in place, different codes and ordinances that could be used to work for what I needed it to do.

Yes I Get To Keep The Wheels On!

We  just closed on my land today…….the  letter that is attached references that our tiny home will be considered a dwelling  and taxed as a home/dwelling while still being able to reside on wheels, and not even forced to skirt the home unless we  want to. They have only requested that we tie our dwelling down. We have the freedom to roll away when we  want and come back when we  want because of some wonderful people who were really willing to look at what we owned and make it happen. They do exist. You just have to find them.

I Recommend:

Get with a local meetup group in your area and divvy up the counties in your state. Have everyone call as many people as they can about it. Give them a list of questions and have them send it back so it can be compiled in one place. Then ask them to work in areas that you don’t have information for. The more people calling, the more they take notice. The more accurate information that we present, the more they start listening to us when we call again with an update, or want to discuss a new bit of information that happened somewhere.
Get on the phone and start calling campgrounds/RV parks/ zoning officials (building inspectors, health departments, zoning offices) and talk to them about what you have. Talk to them about their codes, how to change them, when their meetings are being held, who will be presenting. Get to know that county and those people!
I basically behaved like a two year old during this process, and whenever I got a no or an answer that didn’t fit with what I was trying to do, I said …but why… Then it would open up for them to explain things further and have a dialogue. This helped me build relationships. I would ask for recommendations on what could be done to make changes, add variances to the rules that were on the books, or how could an ordinance be adopted so that rules in place could then be modified to accept tiny houses. This gave me the most information.
Then I took the information that was collected and shared it with everyone in the state that worked on it.
We continued to compile and share. We figured out which counties we could make headway in and then started working with them in more direct ways. Calling and discussing changes. Attending meetings as a group to voice opinions is the next step, and work on adding working to existing rules to allow for tiny houses on wheels. This is the step we are in now! So, you call follow me as we continue to make legal parking work for us right now in Virginia! And if you want to help, or want to do this in your state! You definitely can!
Please contact Melanie on #Serenitastinyliving Facebook if you have questions.
Melanie Copeland

Always Keep Dreaming! Fulfillment Could Be Right Around The Corner

This was one of the first of our What’s Your Tiny Story? series, sharing the personal path of how an amazing Advocate like Melanie Copeland is forging a path to the benefit of others. Melanie has way more to the story that she would like to share, so be on the look out for more posts from Melanie.

Please contact Melanie on Facebook if you have questions.

Note: Please do your own personal due diligence in your own county or city to find a legal route to Make Tiny Possible!

What’s Your Tiny Story? 

Jurisdictions Allowing Moveable Tiny Homes

Jurisdictions Allowing Moveable Tiny Homes

We Are Making Progress For Moveable Tiny Homes

Written By Janet Thome

Appendix Q for tiny homes on a foundation is becoming widely accepted and welcomed by jurisdictions that benefit the consumer, builder and the jurisdiction to finally have a standard. I have been documenting the states and jurisdictions across the nation that have adopted Appendix Q and what I have discovered is the jurisdictions are grateful for a definition and a means to regulate tiny homes.

We have a long way to go regarding  moveable tiny homes as permissible and permanent dwellings, but there has been great successes thanks to all the American Tiny House Advocates ( ATHA)  as they forge the path. We owe a special thanks to Dan Fitzpartrick, the Director of Government Relations of both ATHA and THIA for opening doors in many jurisdictions in California which can be used as an example across the nation. Nick Mosley, Vice President of ATHA and board member of THIA, has also been a key player in moving mountains in California, allowing moveable tiny homes as ADUs in backyards.

Tiny Houses: Affordable Sustainable Eco-Friendly

Dan Fitzpatrick gave lectures all across California and created a  presentation  on moveable tiny homes that is an excellent tool if you are working with a jurisdiction.

Presentation

How Do I Get Zoning Passed In My Area For Tiny Houses In My Area?

This is a great guide that we can all learn from written by Rene’ Hardee , Florida Chapter Leader of ATHA  sharing her success story on Tiny House Talk. Details

Affordable Housing Cannot Wait

The New American Homeless

We are in a crisis and there is a New American Homeless.Housing insecurity in the nation’s richest cities is far worse than government statistics claim. Just ask the Goodmans.
Last August, Cokethia Goodman returned home from work to discover a typed letter from her landlord in the mailbox. She felt a familiar panic as she began to read it. For nearly a year, Goodman and her six children—two of them adopted after being abandoned at birth—had been living in a derelict but functional three-bedroom house in the historically black Peoplestown neighborhood of Atlanta. Goodman, who is 50, has a reserved, vigilant demeanor, her years trying to keep the kids out of harm’s way evident in her perpetually narrowed eyes.

She saw the rental property as an answer to prayer. It was in a relatively safe area and within walking distance of the Barack and Michelle Obama Academy, the public elementary school her youngest son and daughter attended. It was also—at $950 a month, not including utilities—just barely affordable on the $9 hourly wage she earned as a full-time home health aide. Goodman had fled an abusive marriage in 2015, and she was anxious to give her family a more stable home environment. She thought they’d finally found one.

Article Source The New Republic

Documenting Our Successes For Moveable Tiny Homes

This will be a blog post in progress as I add the successes we are achieving for moveable tiny homes. Please share if you have a success story.

12 Tiny House Communities You Can Live In

If this sounds like an idyllic setting for your future tiny house on wheels, then good news! There’s a growing list of communities that fit the bill. Each has its own flair and varying amenities. One thing they all have in common is the idea that your living space extends beyond your personal itsy-bitsy square footage—your “bonus room” is the shared community spaces.

The Wayward Home

Arkansas

Rogers adapts to ‘tiny homes’

The city is writing rules to allow more tiny homes in Rogers.

Kelso’s neighborhood near downtown was built in 2016 on land zoned for mobile homes. Developers David and Chris Gallo recently tried to do a similar project with 39 homes on about 4 acres about 2 miles west of the existing homes.

They found that zoning regulations don’t allow the homes there.

The city’s planning staff presented a “cluster housing” proposal to a Planning Commission committee last week that would allow tiny homes and cottage court housing in some residential areas.

Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Rogers City Planners Propose New Zoning for Tiny Homes

Arizona

Camp Verde: On Oct. 24, 2018, the Camp Verde Town Council approved an agri-tourism use permit for a community of tiny houses on wheels, vintage recreational vehicles and agri-tourism events. The 15-acre parcel that would house the complex is owned by Camp Verde residents Carmen Howard and her husband David.

Article SourceTinyPortableCedarCabins 

Park Models
A Park Model is allowed as a Dwelling Unit per Section 565 of the Yavapai County Planning and Zoning Ordinance. A permit is required prior to installation of a Park Model Unit

Development Services Yavapai County

Tiny Homes On Wheels Are Legal In Mobile Home Parks In Arizona

According to Susan Brenton, Executive Director of Manufactured Housing of Arizona, Tiny Homes on Wheels are legal in mobile home parks in Arizona. The newer parks primarily cater to the modular market. The older parks  are most appropriate for Tiny Homes.

Article Source Tiny Home Industry Association

California

Fresno

“We are the first city in the nation to actually write into its development code authorization for ‘tiny homes,’ ” says Mayor Ashley Swearingen. “If there’s one thing that Californians should know about Fresno, it’s that we are full of surprises. And just when you’ve think you’ve pegged us to be one type of community, we’ll surprise you.”

Some of Swearingen’s motivation comes from wanting to support local jobs and manufacturing. A new Fresno company, California Tiny House, is now building these custom homes for people all over the state. It recently held an unusual open house to celebrate Fresno’s new rules, parking a 270-square-foot cottage on wheels in front of City Hall.

Tiny Homes in Fresno

 
San Diego

San Diego officials say they plan to begin allowing movable “tiny houses” in backyards across the city, to help address the local homelessness and affordable housing crises.

The tiny houses, which are similar to granny flats but smaller, can be built more quickly and cheaply than granny flats and will create a new source of low-cost housing — without any government subsidies, city officials said this week.

Special Thanks To Dan Fitzpatrick: The Director Of Government Relations For ATHA and THIA

This is a week of good news in tiny house land! For the past several months ATHA and THIA have been working with the San Diego City Council and staff to legalize movable tiny houses as ADUs. As you may recall, I had the opportunity, several months ago, to present to the Council on the wisdom of including movable tiny houses as ADUs.
Today the Land Use and Housing council committee voted unanimously to direct City Attorney to draft an amendment to San Diego’s municipal code that would allow movable tiny houses as ADU’s.

Article Source The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Luis Obispo
The Community Development Department recently updated its Zoning Regulations which included provisions for Tiny Homes on Wheels in the backyard of on a site with an owner-occupied single-family residence. A single-family residence (Single-Unit Dwelling) is defined as a dwelling unit designed for occupancy by one household which is not attached to or located on a lot with commercial uses or other dwelling units.
Sonoma County, Ca,

Tiny houses on wheels are allowed as caregiver dwellings in Sonoma County, CA, as well as Napa, Lake, Mendocino, Alameda, Contra Costa & Sacramento, according to Sonya Tafejian of
Tiny House Consulting Sonoma County, phone 707-779-9474.

Sonoma County Zoning Code: Section 26-88-010

Article Source ATHA

Caregiver caravans legal in Sonoma and other northern CA counties

Colorado

Colorado’s Tiny House Movement, Communities and Resources Galore

The tiny house movement in Colorado is booming. Despite limited legal parking opportunities for tiny homes on wheels. But that is changing in a big way, thanks to community developers and local advocates. Their efforts have been aided by all the positive press about the last few years’ exuberant festivals, from the first Tiny House Jamboree to the annual Colorado Tiny House Festival and the People’s Tiny House Festival.

Several smaller events and the gorgeous WeeCasa hotel have added to the growing tiny buzz. The roster of Colorado-based tiny home builders is ever-growing—there are over 24 to choose from! DIY building options are plentiful, as well. The Denver metro is home to TrailerMade Trailers, Einstyne Tiny Homes (tiny house shell specialists) and DIY build sites are available from Tiny Home Connection and Colorado Custom Coachworks.

Tiny House Blog

Lyons, Colorado

The journey to legalize tiny homes on wheels  in Lyons, Colorado was a three year journey.  We  need to thank Byron Fears, owner of SimBLISSity Tiny Homes for being on the forefront of this  battle. Byron Fears is the Director Of Communications for the Tiny Home Industry Association ( THIA ).

Chuck Ballard, President of Pacific West Associates and Director of Standards for THIA was also instrumental in legalizing tiny homes in Lyons, Colorado.

Tiny Homes At River Run Built By Sprout Tiny Homes

A Tiny Home Community in Silt, Colorado.

Details

Florida

Jasper, Florida- 40L Ranch in Jasper, Florida is a tiny home village for single women over 55 years of age. 40L affectionately stands for four old ladies. The tiny home village is an agricultural community who love horses! They allow tiny homes on a foundation, wheels or Park Models,  Details

Brevard, Floridia -Cheatham said the tiny homes are now being allowed in some neighborhoods both in the city of Longwood and in Brevard County where the commission recently came to an agreement.

“Brevard County now has a new piece of property that has just opened up some lots, it’s called Braveheart Properties in northern Brevard, and they actually are gonna be the first ones here in Brevard that will have an actual tiny home community — both on wheels, like the one you’re staying in, and on foundations,” Cheatham said.

Click Orlando

Tennessee

Cocke County

It’s all happening off a side road in Newport, Tennessee. Now people are moving to a Cocke County and jobs are being created. “We’ve got 68 people moving to Cocke County from all over the United States. From New Mexico. From Washington. From Arizona. While this may have you itching to invest in a tiny home, be mindful of strict local regulations and coding. Cocke County has embraced them but regulations on what defines ‘a house’ haven’t caught up everywhere.

“The county is open to tiny homes. There’s no restrictions,” Jones said.

WVLT8

Newport Plain Talk

Wheeled Tiny Homes Welcome! Cocke County, TN.

Forest Tiny Home Community- has two spaces for lease left for your wheeled tiny home in Newport, Tennessee in Cocke, County. All styles of tiny home are welcome here! The Forest Incredible Community  is the first phase of three tiny home communities planned by Incredible Tiny Homes.

Beach And Prairie: 30 People Needed For Each Development

Beach and Prairie are two more planned communities that have not started development yet, they will still have the same requirement of 30 people to start the development.

Article Source Tiny Portable Cedar Cabins  

Texas

Lake Dallas Tiny Village : Approved As A Planned Development Referencing 2018 IRC Appendix V-  Adapted By Approval Of Lake Dallas For Tiny Homes On Wheels

Article Source Taylor Premier Properties

Amended Ordinance 20190502-LD Ord Amending Tiny Home PD Ordinance-107709

Amended Ordinance Ordinance 2017-14 Amending Zoning Ordinance Gotcher

Note: Appendix Q was previously called Appendix V

Pennsylvania

The Ruscombmanor Township supervisors approved a zoning amendment on Sept. 5 allowing accessory dwellings such as tiny homes in residential districts. According to township Solicitor Paul T. Essig, the revision will allow one accessory dwelling unit (ADU) per property, and the unit may house relatives or caregivers for the owners of the main house. They cannot be rented.

The ordinance targets tiny homes that usually can be wheeled onto a space near but separate from the home, and can either be removed or converted into non-residential use, such as storage, once they’re no longer needed.

Essig said residents with the tiny homes would be required to obtain a permit, which the board set for $150, and have the permit reviewed every six months by a township zoning officer. Details.

Oregon

The Small House Specialty Code And Oregon Reach Code address moveable tiny homes. Details

Portland allows tiny homes with conditions. Details

Virginia

Buckingham County, Virginia

Our Tiny Home Is A Legal Dwelling: Zone Approval Buckingham County, Virginia

We  just closed on my land today…….the  letter that is attached references that our tiny home will be considered a dwelling  and taxed as a home/dwelling while still being able to reside on wheels, and not even forced to skirt the home unless we  want to. They have only requested that we tie our dwelling down. We have the freedom to roll away when we  want and come back when we  want because of some wonderful people who were really willing to look at what we owned and make it happen. They do exist. You just have to find them.

Article Source Tiny Home Industry Association

Washington State

Senate Bill ESSB 5383 that went into effect July 28th, 2019 is a great win for moveable tiny homes. The provided a definition -“Tiny house” and “tiny house with wheels” means a dwelling to36be used as permanent housing with permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation built in accordance with the state building code.

Individual cities and counties may allow tiny houses with wheels to be collected together as tiny house villages using the binding site plan method articulated in chapter 58.17 RCW.

Except as provided under subsection (4) of this section, a city or town may not adopt an ordinance that has the effect, directly or indirectly, of preventing the entry or requiring the removal of recreational vehicle or tiny house with wheels as defined in section165 of this act used as a primary residence in manufactured/mobile home communities.

Washington state is in the public comment stage regarding the adoption of Appendix Q until Sept 27th, 2019.

Details

Check Back As I Add More Wins For Our Industry!

Where Can I Live Legally?

Please review the Where Can I Live Legally page, there are a lot of resources for finding tiny home villages and creative ways to find a place to live in a moveable tiny home.