Tiny House Brochure Reiterates Restrictions on Legally Living in a Tiny House

Example of a legal tiny house on foundation from Jackson's Tiny House Construction Guidelines

Legal Tiny House on Foundation

Example of a legal tiny house on foundation from Jackson's Tiny House Construction Guidelines


This is one of those "things that makes you go, 'Hmm...'"

Looking over the Construction Guidelines for Tiny Homes in NC from Jackson County, North Carolina, those seeking to "go tiny" should be able to accomplish the same outlined in the brochure in most areas of the US. Much of what is outlined in the "tiny house brochure" PDF remains within specs of the International Residential Code (IRC) as well as Virginia's Uniform Statewide Building Code (VUSBC) and others throughout the US.

4 types of Tiny

Jackson County has nicely recapped the limitations that exist in most regions of the US:

  1. Site built to NC Residential Code requirements
  2. Labeled modular meet NC Residential Code
  3. HUD labeled manufactured home
  4. RV/Park Model/Camper

Really Nothing New to Tout

If one can believe the headlines, the allowance of "Tiny Homes" could be boon for Jackson County, North Carolina, if the county allows for tiny house sized homes (400 square foot or less) through existing zoning ordinances or easily approved variances. Otherwise, the brochure may simply be a way for county officials to answer the all-too-familiar "well why not" questions about building an approved tiny house in their area.

Tiny House RVs

Regarding tiny houses on wheels (THOW), note the need for RV certification (only RVIA and RPTIA seals were illustrated) via proper labeling, and use only as "temporary living quarters." Further details clearly align certified THOWs as RVs with existing restrictions for temporary use. Also note the reminder that "unlabeled/site–constructed RVs cannot be permanent dwellings in NC," underscoring the state's stand on the use of recreational vehicles (commercial RV and/or DIY THOWs) for temporary use, and not as residences. 

Side-Stepping with a Spin

Many will tout the headlines as a step in the right direction, and it is if local zones in the county allow for "tiny home" sized dwellings. The caveat, however, is that a tiny home must still meet existing requirements for

  • Site built on a permanent foundation using existing planning and inspections/approval processes, or
  • HUD compliant modular/manufactured home from a certified manufacturer. 

THOW/RV Rights and Restrictions

Those with certified THOWs continue to retain the same rights as manufactured RVs (temporary recreational purposes, not for use as a permanent dwelling), which most often restrict the use of THOW/RVs for use in approved campgrounds (i.e. RV parks). In special cases, temporary use permits may allow RVs for camping outside of designated parks and campgrounds. 

Non-certified site built THOW models (backyard builds) are held to inspection for compliance under the National Electric Code (NEC) for electrical connections, which clearly defines the use of RV-like "shore power" connections (not extension cords) for providing power to a THOW/RV. 

Additionally, "unlabeled/site constructed units must meet electrical code and inspection requirements," which -- in extreme cases -- could include destructive inspection, whereby the owner may have to deconstruct the tiny house for proof of compliance. Hopefully, more reasonable rights and respects of private property will prevail and allow the THOW/RV owner to tow their home elsewhere (a local county official aptly called this, "kicking the can down the road") to another jurisdiction instead of enforcing such drastic destruction. As an "Authority Having Jurisdiction," the right for enforcement lies in their hands.

Restating the Not-So-Obvious

In the end, the brochure is a simple recap of high-points of the often confusing and questionable restrictions barring tiny houses for use as permanent dwellings. Only through a concerted effort for legitimization (clear definition of a Tiny House) and legalization (codes allowing for their construction and use as a permanent residence) will we seize the right to live in THOW as a small, chassis-based, DIY dwelling. Hopefully that big elusive dream soon becomes our tiny living reality.

Thoughts and comments are welcome.

Live Large -- Go Tiny! 

Thom Stanton [>:-)

Helpful links: