Despite the best efforts of reality TV shows to make "going tiny" look easy, the challenge remains for living legally
Today's meeting with Chesterfield County left me with mixed emotions. More than anything, I am grateful to Chesterfield County's staff for taking the time to explain all the details. That said, the building process is anything but simple... and isn't simplicity THE hallmark of tiny living?
As mentioned on the Timber Trails Facebook page, the great news is that there's good hope for tiny houses in communities. Our local administrators seem very open to the ecovillage concept, even the possibility of unique blend of mobile tiny houses and permanent dwellings.
Green space and a community based around a common value of quality lifestyle (rather than transient campers) seemed of high interest as the values offset the lower cost lifestyle than can lead down a slippery slope right into unhealthy living environments. Nuff said.
The less than fortunate news, though understandable, is seeing how difficult it may be to legally provide for living in an individual tiny house. The Achilles heel for a tiny houses on wheels (THOW) is that they are currently classified as recreational vehicles (RVs).
Having a tiny house is great for keepin' it mobile, but not so much when it comes to habitation as many localities don't allow full-time habitation in an RV. By comparison, if you want a "ground bound" tiny house on a permanent foundation, you'll have to enter into the permitting process with all requisite inspections.
To help our cause, for the Tiny House Movement to help define a tiny house on wheels as different han the usual recreational vehicle. RVIA certification is great for procuring insurance and parking in campgrounds, but doesn't provide any benefit when it comes to using your RV (i.e. tiny house) as a domicile.
Most places just won't allow full-time living at all, let alone on plots of land outside of official campgrounds. That said, with RVIA certification comes a measure of standardized building methodology and the all-important sticker on the side next to all your racing decals. Good ol' jokes aside, this is the RV'ers double-edge sword of easy parking, endless camping, and less-than-legal living quarters.
If your tiny house is built on wheels for the intent of moving to an alternate location as a dwelling, especially if built by someone other than the homeowner, then it may be classified as an "industrialized building."
As with tiny houses, industrialized buildings are purpose-built for easy relocation. Consider that outdoor classrooms are trucked right in, quickly setup for students, and then -- ring the bell -- class dismissed! Same for you if your tiny house is built in one place, then hauled to another jurisdiction.
So some may say "just juris-my-diction," but here's the rub: Your home-built RV doesn't have a 3rd party stamp, seal, or certificate that qualifies the building process and the standards for habitation as a mobile office, classroom, or tiny house. And while that seems wrong, it's in the right where law enforcement is concerned.
Before you build, consider this course:
BTW: Congrats... please share some pictures!
As we stare down the road of our tiny lives, we've got to be cognizant of the fact that not every building was made to be a home. My sincere concern for so many tiny house builders is that they'll construct something they can't inhabit in the city or town of their choosing.
Likewise, caveat emptor (buyer beware) to those snaggin' a great deal on that $5,000 tiny house. If it looks like a shed, that might be what you're getting. While nobody likes to hear "no-can-do" or willing chooses to shuffle through endless piles of paperwork, it would be much worse to build your dream home only to use it like a lavish garden shed on wheels.
While tiny house living may fall under increased scrutiny, don't let this dim your tiny house dreams.
Dare to dream of living on the road on your own giant journey of discovery! Find the place where you're welcome just the way you are with your DIY tiny house! Study building codes and build to standards that work within your existing municipality! Develop team or join a meetup group of like-minded tiny house people and build a community worthy of your retirement retreat!
While we've enjoyed a nice long honeymoon of relative tiny house freedom, it's time to get serious about this as a long-term relationship. We're in it for the long haul, and hope you are too.
Live Large -- Go Tiny!