If you’re interested in a Tumbleweed cottage, they meet code in most places as a primary residence, so just take the study plans for your chosen model to the local zoning authority and check with them.
Tiny houses on wheels are a bit of a hybrid – neither conventional house nor truly a travel trailer. There are places where it’s clearly legal to live in one (such as RV or mobile home parks), places where it’s clearly illegal, and places where it’s a gray area.
They are generally viewed as Recreational Vehicles by zoning officials and therefore can be researched at your local zoning office as an RV or travel trailer. Laws vary from place to place but it’s generally legal to ‘camp’ in the yard of an existing home in an RV, but not legal to ‘inhabit’ one full time. For the most part, communities don’t have the manpower or budget to actively enforce those codes, and the only way you would come to their attention would be if neighbors called in complaints. If you’re a good neighbor who keeps things clean, lives in harmony with the people in the area, and treats your wastes responsibly, you can greatly increase your odds of living peacefully for as long as you like in a given locale. The unique charm of a tiny Tumbleweed often makes them so attractive to people that they’re more likely to come over and see your place, introduce themselves, and generally be delighted to have you as part of the neighborhood.
Your best bet is either finding someone who is willing to rent a spot on their land to place your little house on, or buy land that already has a house on it – perhaps an extreme fixer to save you money. You can place a little Tumbleweed on the land and live in it while you renovate the existing structure. As far as renovations blowing your budget – maybe the renovations just take a long time. Someday when they’re done, you can consider renting out the main house for income. It’s a gray area, but folks are often able to live in peace indefinitely because the houses are so charming that people rarely complain.
The reason to avoid raw land is that most communities would never voluntarily let your tiny Tumbleweed be the only house on the land. In order to get utilities in place you would have to get a permit for building a conventional house, which requires full plans and expensive permit fees – and the permits and costs for getting utilities to a piece of land are astronomically high, unless you want to develop your utilities off grid.
To research zoning laws in your area, start by searching the name of your town or city with the word zoning and see what you get. Often you’ll find the city planning office has a website where you can look up the definitions and mandates related to various zones, and some kind of map or index where you can look up parcels of land and find out what their zoning is. By cross-referencing these resources you can get an idea of where your best bets are in terms of locations.
Otherwise, if you want to live in a RV or mobile home park, visit some in your chosen area and see which ones you like, then talk to the managers and show them pictures from the website or the Small House Book so they can see you face to face and get a clear visual picture of what you have in mind. Convince the managers that your house will be beautiful and safe, and they may let you in or be able to give you some guidance on how to meet their criteria.
If you run into more questions, feel free to give us a call to pick our brains – we love to help!
Tumbleweed Workshop Presenter