How to Score Tiny House Legality in Any Country

With tiny houses becoming more mainstream, understanding how to score tiny house legality is important when you need to know where you can live – legally. In this article, I will explain the details behind the scoring system we use to judge countries, states, provinces, counties, and cities for the tiny house zoning and building articles I’m publishing this year, in 2020.

The first thing I do is break it down into 2 major categories. These categories are:

  1. Foundational Tiny Houses
  2. Tiny Houses on Wheels

They are categorized into movable and immovable tiny houses, specific to those that may be interested in one or the other. Having an overhead view of each also helps you determine if one may be better than the other.

For example, Massachusetts frowns on “mobile homes” (tiny houses on wheels) and delights in “cottages” (tiny houses on foundations), as defined by many state zoning laws. This is great news if you don’t plan to move frequently. You can purchase a lot and build a tiny house in many cities and most counties.

However, if you plan to move around frequently, you know that you’d have to avoid Massachusetts altogether during your travels.

Using the Tiny House Legality Scoring System

I know it’s such a mouthful to say (I’m working on the name). But it’s fairly simple and straightforward. There are 2 categories that can have a maximum of 10 stars total. Each item in the category will represent between 0 and 3 stars each.

These items are broken into the hottest and most popular questions asked in the tiny house world about parking and living. It lays out the information in easy-to-understand terms and scores it based on available information at the time of publishing.

A full 10 stars means that the category is 100% tiny house friendly for that state. 

Scoring Category: Foundational Tiny Houses (max. 10-star rating)

  • Minimum Building Size (Max. 2 Stars)
    • 0 – Less than 1,000 sq ft
    • 1 – Less than 600 sq ft
    • 2 – Less than 400 sq ft
  • Lot & Building restrictions (Max. 3 Stars)
    • 0 – ADU for family only
    • 1 – Backyard as ADU only?
    • 2 – Its Own lot with restrictions?
    • 3 – Its Own lot with no restrictions?
  • Considered principal or accessory? (Max. 1 Stars)
    • 0 – ADU only
    • 1 – Principal (Primary)
  • Is it defined? If so, what do they call it? (Max. 1 Star)
    • 0 – Not defined
    • 1 – Defined in Zoning and Building Codes
  • Other restrictions (such as weather building codes) (Max. 1 Star)
    • 0 – Not defined separately 
    • 1 – Defined separately
  • Are there currently any tiny house communities on foundations? (Max. 2 Stars)
    • 0 – No known communities exist 
    • 1 – Between 1 and 3 known communities exist
    • 2 – More than 4 known communities exist 

Scoring Category: Tiny Houses on Wheels (max. 10-star rating)

  • Am I allowed to park? (Max. 3 Stars)
    • 0 – Not defined, No parking allowed, or Parking for family residence only
    • 1 – Yes, as ADU only
    • 2 – Yes, as primary dwelling with wheels
    • 3 – Yes, as a primary dwelling or ADU if wheels are removed
  • Are any certifications required? (Max. 1 Stars)
    • 0 – No
    • 1 – Yes (must define which ones are required, such as NOAH, RVIA, or other)
  • Is it considered a mobile home, RV, or other? Have they defined it as a permanent dwelling? (Max. 2 Stars)
    • 0 – Not defined
    • 1 – Defined as a mobile home, RV, or other
    • 2 – Defined as a permanent dwelling
  • What is the allowable parking timeframe? (ie. How long you can live in a single place?) (Max. 2 Stars)
    • 0 – Less than 6 months
    • 1 – Up to 24 months
    • 2 – Full time
  • Are there currently any tiny house communities on wheels? (Max. 2 Stars)
    • 0 – No known communities exist 
    • 1 – Between 1 and 3 known communities exist
    • 2 – More than 4 known communities exist

From here, the scores are totaled and averaged for the state or province score. The country’s score is an average of all state or province scores.

As the movement progresses and evolves, there will be additional things that will be added to the scoring system. For now, this is the current system I am using.

Start exploring the legal places you can live in a tiny house.

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