Proposed Regulations Changes My Impact Legality of Tiny Houses

While Tiny Houses on Wheels (THOWs) mostly exist in a legal grey area. One of the options tiny house builders have found is to build homes under Park Model RV standards. A Park Model RV is essentially a smaller than normal manufactured home. It’s not really an RV trailer that can be towed on vacation, and it’s not as big as a more common manufactured ‘mobile’ home.

Many tiny house builders have become registered as Park Model RV manufactures through the trade organization RVIA and can now certify their Tiny Houses on Wheels under ANSI A119.5. This has many benefits as it helps classify the house as something insurers, lenders, and planning departments understand. In other words, it takes the THOW out of the grey area and moves it into a known classification.

A proposed regulation change by HUD (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development) may remove the option of legally living full time in an RV smaller than 400 square feet… or that’s how many of us are reading the proposal. The can be found on Regulations.gov and is titled FR–5877–P–01 Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations; Revision of Exemption for Recreational Vehicles.

I don’t think this spells the end of tiny houses, and I’m not alone. Read this great article over at Tiny House Build for another opinion.

We also know that there are other efforts underway to have Tiny Houses on Wheels classified under their own unique definition. So while this will be a step in the wrong direction if HUD gets it’s way, it’s not the end – only the closing of an option many people leverage.

The public has until April 11, 2016 to comment on the proposed changes. You can make public comment at Regulations.gov.

Below is a video by Eric Muss-Barnes from Luthorville: Building an Off-Grid Mojave Tiny House. He explains the situation in a good amount of detail.

13 thoughts on “Proposed Regulations Changes My Impact Legality of Tiny Houses

  1. Mark Benkovic says:

    The government was created to serve the people, but, unfortunately the government is a tyranny that no longer serves the people.

    • Darren says:

      Agreed. They have to regulate and tax every form of human existence. I wonder how mankind ever survived without HUD?

  2. K c costa says:

    Thank you for this video and informative explanation of proposed regulations. It was only s matter of time until government agencies would try to work around this movement. Ridiculous and destructive for induviduals and communities.

  3. Jane says:

    The government wants everyone to be dependent on the government. They don’t like that you can live off the grid.
    They want you to be up to your fanny in debt. The huge house and all the bills that go with it. It is the smart people
    who choose live large in a tiny home. Why the government doesn’t want the homeless to have these homes either.
    I hope to retire in one in the future. The best thing is to do is buy your own land. Then you can raise your own food.

  4. Pamela Evers says:

    This regulation, if put into effect, would violate several laws and the Constitution based on discrimination and also as a “taking” (the property would no longer be habitable, thus “taken” by the government). If HUD is inept enough to file the rule (remember, this is a mere agency, not Congress), then a class action lawsuit should be promptly filed by the tiny home building community on behalf of the builders and owners.

  5. Marsha Cowan says:

    Because this is HUD, this proposal will probably only effect those people recieveing government aid for housing, food, or other expenses. I am not sure HUD can regulate other housing situations. Local and universal building codes would otherwise prevail. Someone correct me if I am wrong…thanks!

    • Darren says:

      I believe what you are referring to is HUD (Section 8). The regulate a lot more than that section.

      • Mark Benkovic says:

        In my past personal experience I used to look down on trailer park homes, which was wrong of me. I built two homes for myself and raised 3 boys for over 20 years in a 3600 square foot home (not including a double garage) on a fairly large residential lot in a suburb. I was born in 1962 and once I started working in the 80’s I observed a new trend, which was the begging of what are called “Monster homes” today; and, these homes are noticeably bigger than our parents or grandparents lived in. With the bigger homes came two cars and two working parents because two incomes were required to pay for the large house and two cars. Although North American social living standards changed, people’s incomes did not keep up. In my case, I started to embrace the “Less is more” philosophy in the late 90’s. It took me about 15 years to get rid of a lot of unused “Junk” that my family and I accumulated and I now live in a 850 square foot condo. However, over two years ago I was seriously considering building a 160 square foot tiny trailer home to live in by myself. The reason I did not build the tiny home is that in the Province of Ontario, Canada, the building codes require a minimum square footage for a stand-alone home, which is at least 4 times greater than the tiny trailer home I wanted to build. Even if I wanted to build a stand-alone tiny home there are no lots and no zoning that would accommodate the possibility of small homes, and the reason for this is very political. To be clear, cities have predetermined expenses and they need to charge ever-increasing property tax rates to cover those growing expenses. This is at odds with the needs and preferences of a minority of individuals who would prefer to scale down in size to simplify their lives and dramatically reduce living expenses. In addition, cities are reluctant or not willing to put the infrastructure (especially water & sewage) in place to allow for the building of smaller homes. As a result, the “Footprint” of most homes is much larger than it could be and the mindset of society in general is the main reason for this inefficiency. Another problem is that there is still a stigma to going “Tiny” in the same way as there is a stigma about mental health issues. It is just considered unfashionable, weird or derogatory in some way if one chooses to live in a 200 to 800 square foot home instead of a conventional 1600 to 6000 square foot home. I also visited a “Home Show” today and I was thinking that the bigger the home and the more income people have the larger their home and the more money people generally spend to maintain their home to keep up their image with friends, family and society. In summary, there are several interrelated philosophical and political reasons that either make the choice difficult or impossible to simplify our lives and minimize our expenses by choosing to live in small or tiny homes.

  6. N. Clermont says:

    With the outrageously rising cost of homes today and rental apartments impossible to find, I cannot understand why governments cannot wrap their heads around this not so new concept. If it is acceptable to convert containers for emergency dwellings, there is no reason that a tiny home cannot be considered acceptable. Pretty soon, there will be more people living on the streets… would it be best they live in a tent!

    • Magnus says:

      It has absolutely nothing at all to do with legitimate issues of ‘health and safety’… it’s the fact that they, nor a few dozen “investors” and a bank besides, cannot fleece you to within a millimeter of abject poverty, that they endeavor to make THOW’s flat-out illegal. It’s more of the same, the very reason you can’t build less than 1,000ft2, tied to land in the overwhelming majority of the ‘developed’ U.S. anymore (and even if you could, just a two-story box around 800ft2 with absolutely no frills will now break you over $300,000 – that’s factoring labor, land and all the yet again excessive taxes and fees, inspections, etc. etc. also). Until enough people get pissed off enough to get up off of their couch and DO something, it’s never going to change. And I’m not alluding to further hot-air blowing, either… the time for that is well beyond over. Clearly.

      Their issue, if it wasn’t clear, is the lack of (quite grossly excessive) property tax “revenue”. If they can’t make it outright illegal, they’re going to levy taxation so extremely excessive, the people presently having to resort to them, won’t be able to cough it up (only the trendy, rich, ‘green’ hipsters). In prime example, the effing schools portion of ‘property tax’ runs more now than your actual house and land portion of the cumulative tax! My parents are actually being overcharged for TWO school districts! I’d far rather a 20% sales tax, than crap like this making housing even MORE unaffordable…

      And people thought the mob went under… ha! It’s the government. Pay them half of everything you earn, or they’ll go out of their way to ensure you have nothing.

  7. Darren says:

    This is exactly what I was talking about on my Tiny House TV Shows comment. It’s got a lot of attention now and big brother is watching…literally.

    • Mark Benkovic says:

      Big brother don’t care. We are so far beyond Orwell’s 1984 that it’s not even funny. Most people do not even know that our present system of land ownership is based on the Saxon French feudal system from 1000 years ago. Hence, eminent domain and all that crap. Magnus and Darren make some very obvious observations of the chaotic reality we live in.

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