We all have different reasons for wanting to put a tiny house in our backyards. Maybe our family grew and we need more space, or our teenage son wants to have a dedicated space for himself, or we would like to have our elders close by and still want to give them privacy and freedom.
My reason was a little different from these. My wife started working with resin as a hobby, and after a year it became a business. The basement wasn’t enough for her anymore, and we decided to have a shed conversion in our backyard.
Whatever the reason may be, the first question is; ‘Can I put a tiny house in my backyard?’.
As a general rule, you can put a tiny house in your backyard. However, these are the details that you will need to pay attention to; the type of tiny house, and your local government’s rules and regulations for that type of tiny house.
In my village, as long as you keep informed the building department and get the necessary permits before installing the tiny house, you are good. There are some limitations and rules that you need to pay attention to (the minimum distance from the property line, the maximum sq ft area of the tiny house, electrical connections, sewer connections etc.).
It took about 10 days to get the permit. Once the tiny house is put, the building department came and checked it against the permit records. Once all confirmed, I had an ADU in my backyard.
Knowing that it is possible to build a tiny house in your backyard is important. I am sure, there are more questions in your mind. At least we had many questions when we started this journey.
Here are the main important questions, and answers.
Can You Legally Live In A Tiny Home?
As long as the tiny house is built to code and all papers are proper, it is possible to live in tiny houses on foundation.
On the other hand, tiny houses on wheels are a different story. You can have the THOW certified as a recreational vehicle, provided that it meets RV standards. However, because some codes prohibit RV owners from living in the vehicles permanently, having your home certified could work against you. A lot of places don’t want somebody living in an RV in a driveway, so they’ve put prohibitions on it.
While tiny houses are indeed legal throughout the U.S., there are many different laws governing tiny homes that vary by state, city, town, and also the tiny house type.
The law often sees tiny houses as floating somewhere between camper vans (RVs – Recreational Vehicles), mobile homes, and traditional single-family residences. So it’s easy to get confused about what’s legal and what’s not.
Because zoning regulations vary, it’s best to contact your personal zoning department to get an understanding of tiny homes in your area.
Most local government bodies require a minimum set of requirements for tiny houses:
- minimum ceiling height of 6-feet-4-inches in bathrooms and 6-feet-8-inches in common areas,
- must have an emergency exit,
- must have a staircase or ladder that leads to any lofted spaces (if the tiny house has a loft area),
- and one separate bathroom.
What States Are Tiny House Friendly and NOT Tiny House Friendly?
What is tiny house friendly state? The states which tend to be those of a more eco-friendly persuasion or those where zoning laws and permits might be a bit more flexible in terms of building dwellings of this size.
And what is not tiny house friendly state? While none of the US states seem to openly forbid tiny homes from being built, some of them certainly discourage them in certain ways. Certain states require tiny homes to have emergency exits or meet minimum ceiling heights. Zoning regulations also exist that might make it difficult to build a tiny house, even if you legally own the land you want to put it on.
I believe that classifying states as ‘tiny house friendly’ and ‘not tiny house friendly’ is not a good approach because of 2 reasons:
- The tiny house rules and regulations keep changing. All states, cities, counties, and towns are adjusting their regulations based on the needs and requests. So; one state may not be a tiny house friendly today; however with some regulation changes, tomorrow the same state may be one of the most tiny house friendly states.
- There are some cases that, even though a state is not considered a tiny house friendly state, a local government may be tiny house friendly. Or, there are some opposite cases as well; while the state is tiny house friendly, the local town is not friendly and making life harder for tiny house owners.
There are multiple websites listing tiny house friendly and not friendly sites with contradicting information. For example (as of June 9th, 2021):
- According to (https://www.greenmatters.com/p/which-states-allow-tiny-homes), New York is one of the most tiny house friendly states.
- According to (https://www.godownsize.com/where-build-tiny-house-laws/), New York is one of the least tiny house friendly states.
- According to (https://www.businessinsider.com/tiny-home-most-popular-us-states-2020-6#10-utah-1), Utah is one of the most tiny house friendly states.
- According to (https://www.godownsize.com/where-build-tiny-house-laws/#Utah), Utah is one of the least tiny house friendly states.
We can find more and more conflicting information on different websites. It seems the website owners are just randomly (!) grouping states into 2 groups. I do not agree with this approach.
The best approach is to be in touch with your local office and building department. You will get the best answers from them for your own town.
So; it doesn’t matter if your state is listed as friendly, or not friendly on a website. You will need to work with your local building department on your own case.
Why Are Tiny Houses Illegal?
I will be blunt on this question, and give you the most direct and correct answer.
Tiny houses are illegal (or not easy to register them) in some states, because;
- in general, people think that tiny houses are ‘low income’ living structures and people don’t want to see them around.
- the same people are in charge of making the laws, rules, and regulations. Since they don’t want to see the tiny houses around, they make the laws accordingly.
Building codes have existed primarily for one purpose: to protect the health and safety of the occupants. And building a tiny house that meets code is possible. However, ‘some people’ are still insisting that tiny houses cannot meet the codes.
This is not the case. Tiny houses illegality is totally an artificial situation, and soon or later the rules, regulations, and laws will be changed accordingly.
How Much Would It Cost To Build A Tiny House In A Backyard?
I have researched this subject and calculated the numbers below as a result of 3 different groups:
- My friends, who has built their tiny houses themselves
- My neighbors, who are living in tiny houses
- 2 different Facebook tiny house groups
One of the appealing things about building a tiny house is that you can choose the features you want to include. The cost of a tiny house is highly dependent on the building materials and amenities you choose, and the person who will actually do the job. So; the range is huge for tiny houses.
In general; it will cost $25,000 – $65,000 to build a tiny house in your backyard. However, if you are on a budget you can spend as little as $7,500 for a tiny house, or if you want all the possible luxuries the cost will go as high as $125,000 or even more.
Be advised that, these numbers don’t include these extra expenses:
- the required permits from the building department
- required connections to the waterline, city sewer line, and power line
- furniture and appliances
One of the most important factors for the overall cost is the answer to the question, who will do the job? If you are DIYer, on average the above averages will go down about 50%. Meaning, you can build your backyard tiny house for $15,000 – $35,000 if you will do all the work yourself.
Can You Build A Tiny House For $5,000?
Building a tiny house for less than $5,000 is possible with pre-cut tiny house kits. Usually, with these kits, the exterior structure is complete, but not the interior (so; no bathroom or kitchen area is designed or built, no plumbing, no electrical wiring or outlets included).
Even though these kits are being sold as ‘tiny house kits’, calling them as tiny house is a little stretch. Once you add the required minimum functionality into them (bathroom, plumbing, electrical wiring etc,); their cost becomes higher than $5,000.
Here are some example tiny house kits with their prices:
|Company||Tiny House Price||Size||Notes|
|Glen Echo Cabins||$4,956||8ft * 6ft||Many other sizes available (smaller and bigger)|
|Arched Cabins||$3,900||12ft * 12ft||Many other sizes available (smaller and bigger)|
|Allwood Annika||$4,995||9.3ft * 9.3ft||No interior finishing needed|
|Jamaica Cottage Shop||$3,266||8ft * 8ft||Four-Season Pre-Cut Kit (Pre-Set Options)|
|Jamaica Cottage Shop||$4,918||8ft * 10ft||Four-Season Pre-Cut Kit (Pre-Set Options)|
|Jamaica Cottage Shop||$4,394||12ft * 14ft||Complete Pre-Cut Kit (Pre-Set Options) – THIS IS MY FAVORITE|
If you are planning to use the tiny house as a hobby space, as a reading – meditation room; they are great. Otherwise, they may be a little tight for a full tiny house. Additionally; if you are planning to use it as a full-time living space, you will need to add the required areas and utilities; such as a bathroom, plumbing, kitchen, etc.
Also; as laws vary per state on acceptable dwelling structures, you need to check if your tiny house kit complies with the standards prescribed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Does IKEA Sell Tiny Homes?
IKEA Sells tiny houses, but they are on wheels. They partnered with media company Vox Creative and Wisconsin-based tiny home and RV builder ESCAPE to design the 187-square-foot on-wheel dwellings. The IKEA tiny house costs $52,425 (as of June 2021). If you want to check out the details and buy, here is the link.
Unlike the assemble-it-yourself furniture that the Swedish company is known for, these tiny homes come prebuilt and are constructed on a flatbed trailer.
IKEA tiny house has solar panels, composting toilets, light bulbs that use approximately 85 percent less energy, and faucets that are designed to reduce water consumption by nearly half when compared to their traditional counterparts.
Because the tiny house IKEA’s selling is on wheels, it’s not considered a single-family house; it’s considered a recreational vehicle, or RV. And many local ordinances don’t allow RVs in backyards. If they do, some locales don’t allow people to live full-time in a tiny house on wheels.
So; before buying a IKEA tiny house for your backyard, better to check into the regulations for your area.
Do You Pay Taxes On Tiny Houses?
Mainly there are 2 types of tiny houses and their tax situations are different:
- Tiny houses on wheels: Property taxes don’t apply to a mobile tiny house, but you still have to watch out for other types of taxes. The laws about tiny houses and taxes vary in every state, so knowing these will prepare you for that possibility. Just to escape from tax, you can’t put your tiny house on wheels just anywhere – because of zoning laws.
- Tiny houses on foundations: Depending on where you live, if your tiny home is on a foundation, you may have to pay property taxes. If you will be building a tiny house in your backyard (as an ADU), in most places, you will not pay as a separate tax, but your primary resident’s tax will increase.
How Long Do Tiny Homes Last?
A tiny house built the right way with the right materials can last decades with proper maintenance. Especially tiny houses on foundations (backyard tiny houses) can last as long as regular houses. The main important factor is the foundation. As long as the foundation is built properly and the tiny house is attached to the ground the right way, you won’t need to worry about anything.
The stress factor for the tiny houses on wheels is the movement. The continuous movement of the THOW may reduce the tiny house’s life. But still, with the proper maintenance (for axes, for wheels, for trailers, etc.), THOWs can be used for decades easily.