If you have been wondering if are tiny houses legal in Virginia then this updated 2021 guide will explore the laws and restrictions you need to know about before you build your tiny home.
With the tiny home movement sweeping through different states and counties, there is a need to address the legality of these modern homes that are dramatically causing a shift in the real estate niche.
Yes, tiny homes are beautiful and becoming quite popular, especially among people looking for affordable housing and others looking to live off the grid, but guess what, tiny homes are still not recognized across many states, so you want to know what the law says about tiny homes where you plan to build one before even proceeding on your journey.
Trust us when we say you don’t want to embark on your big project only to find out later that it isn’t legal. So before kicking off your tiny home building project, do your homework, so you don’t have any runnings with the law later.
Today, we will show you all the relevant tiny home laws in Virginia. So if you’re in Virginia or planning to move there to set up your tiny home, you’ll be more than happy to learn about all the tiny house laws in Virginia in today’s post.
But before we delve into the nitty-gritty of today’s post, let’s give you a brief background about tiny homes as well as all the important things you want to know.
What is a tiny home?
Tiny homes are beautiful homes that are no larger than 400 square feet and not smaller than 80 square feet. The exciting thing about these brilliant homes is that they are pretty easy to maintain, consume less energy as well as being more affordable to buy than traditional homes.
Thanks to their impressive design, tiny homes provide more than enough space to house all the needed necessities in a home. From cozy living space to bedrooms to kitchens to the bathroom and even storage units, tiny homes have everything you’ll ever need in a home.
While tiny homes can be built on typical foundations, traditional tiny homes today are designed with movement in mind. This explains why most tiny homes are built on trailers or set of wheels. With this type of design, tiny homeowners can easily move around without a hassle. Plus, this design also allows tiny homeowners to avoid planning permission, which is a bit expensive and invasive.
In addition to winning over people who are looking to live more minimalist lifestyles, tiny homes are also becoming very popular on Airbnb, as tiny home enthusiasts are taking advantage of the tiny home movement to make some extra income for themselves.
Another exciting thing about the tiny home movement is that it is becoming increasingly appealing to the young generation who have been priced out of the housing and rental market in general.
Given the spate of high rents, low salaries and ever-increasing mortgage deposits, it’s easy to see why more people are looking for alternative living solutions which the tiny home industry provides.
Are tiny homes legal?
While the tiny home movement continues to gain massive popularity, we continue to see questions like “Are tiny homes legal?” pop up across different forums, especially among people looking to catch up with the trend.
Even though most states are beginning to open up to the tiny home movement, unfortunately, not all states are there yet, as many states are still yet to recognize tiny homes in their building codes.
Currently, only a few states are considered friendly to tiny homes. But we are optimistic that as the trend continues to sweep through different states and counties, we will begin to see more and more states recognize tiny homes in their building and zoning codes.
Though most states have not recognized tiny homes in their building codes yet, there are a couple of grey areas most tiny homeowners have been able to benefit from.
With most tiny homes categorized as RVs or caravans under the law, you may be able to bypass building and zoning codes if you register your tiny home under this category.
States considered extremely friendly to tiny homes?
Like we mentioned earlier, most states are yet to capture tiny homes in their building codes; as such, owning a tiny home in many states in the United States may be considered illegal. That said, some states in the US are beginning to open up to tiny homes as the trend continues to gain massive popularity among people looking for affordable housing.
As of right now, five states including Texas, California, Oregon, North Carolina and Colorado are considered extremely tiny home friendly. So, if you’re looking for a soft landing as far as the laws guiding tiny homes are concerned, you want to build or buy your tiny home in these states.
Also, these states are continuing to make laws that are favorable to tiny homeowners. To this end, it is only a matter of time before the tiny home movement sweeps through these states as more and more people opt for alternative lifestyles.
Where can you place your tiny homes?
If you registered your tiny home on wheels as an RV and you plan to travel with it, then you’ll be able to bypass all of the restrictions captured by zoning or building codes. The only issue most tiny homeowners may have to deal with is finding a place to park their tiny homes.
But we doubt that should be a problem as you can just park it in a friend’s backyard. Also, you can place it in a park, a camping site or an RV park. The only issue we have with the latter is that you’re only allowed to stay for a specific number of days. And that’s because most states prohibit the use of RVs as full-time residences.
Not to worry, the rule is only enforced if someone reports or complains about it. So, if no one is complaining, you have nothing to worry about.
On the flip side, building your home on a foundation is quite more challenging, and that’s because most zoning and building regulations across the US prohibit people from buying land to erect a tiny home on it.
Are tiny homes legal in Virginia?
With many states becoming more receptive to the tiny home movement, the state of Virginia is beginning to open up to tiny homes. While the Virginia state laws haven’t fully recognized tiny homes, there are some grey areas that allow tiny homeowners to build their homes without any hassle.
Since the Virginia state laws already recognize tiny homes as caravans and movable homes, to ensure that your tiny home doesn’t go against state laws, it will be wise to register your tiny home as a caravan.
Also, keep in mind that the Virginia state laws prohibit the use of tiny homes as a full-time living space. So, to ensure you aren’t on the wrong side of the law, please endeavor to use your home as a secondary living space.
If you’re unsure what the law says exactly, feel free to reach out to state planning officers. This way, you’ll be able to learn everything you need to know about the legality of tiny homes in the state of Virginia.
Tiny house regulation in Virginia
While tiny homes in Virginia keep springing up, tiny home regulations across many major cities in the state remain tight. Even though many counties, especially in the western part of the state, are beginning to allow tiny homes, it’s always wise to reach out to local municipalities before you park or build your tiny home.
Another thing you should keep in mind is that tiny home regulations and building codes vary from one city and county to the next.
At the moment, Staunton County allows tiny homes. However, the tiny home has to have a minimum of at least 200 square feet.
While Virginia Beach doesn’t currently have a specific ordinance that guides tiny homes, reports state that the county will treat tiny homes like any other residential space, provided they meet the requirements set by the state building code.
Like Staunton County, the Augusta Counties, Virginia, are becoming very receptive to tiny houses, provided those homes meet specific criteria.
Again, Buckingham County also recently approved tiny homes on wheels. With this move, tiny home enthusiasts can park their homes in the backyard and on private properties.
To make things even better, the county lets you rent or buy land to park your tiny home.
If you request a variance, the county will allow the use of Off-Grid Toilets.
Even though no inspection is required, you must ensure that your toilet is connected to a sewer.
How to get around tiny home laws in Virginia
Even though tiny homes continue to appeal to people across the US, zoning laws and building codes across many states in the US make it pretty hard for average Americans to jump on the tiny home trend.
Thankfully, we have found some loopholes that will allow you to live in tiny homes legally. Read on to learn more about these loopholes.
Build your tiny home in a friends backyard
If you’re not interested in land ownership, then consider building your tiny apartment on a friend’s land as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). Because federal housing administration laws recognize ADUs as habitable living units since they are located on properties that already have single-family homes, you won’t be breaking any laws.
Secure a job that allows you to live in an ADU
If you have a very portable tiny home, then it is very possible to park your tiny home on an employer’s land under the accessory dwelling unit laws.
This is an excellent option for people who cannot navigate the complex requirements put in place by building codes and zoning laws.
Put your tiny homes on a trailer
Though many states like Massachusetts, California and Texas have less stringent regulations on tiny houses, especially if they are portable, many states are still yet to include tiny homes in their building codes.
Thankfully, you can bypass these laws if your tiny home is on wheels. If that’s the case, you can simply register your home as a recreational vehicle, provided it meets the set RV standards.
The only caveat with this option is that since some codes prohibit the use of RVs as full-time living spaces, you may run into some issues in the future if you plan to live permanently in your tiny home.
Move your home around frequently.
In order not to be on the wrong side of the law, you can take the idea of a mobile home up a notch by bringing your home with you anytime you travel. While this saves you the money you’d have spent on hotel accommodation, it also ensures you don’t break any temporary living rules.
By moving your home around frequently, you should be able to get around restrictions guiding the use of tiny homes as permanent residents.
Virginia may not be among the friendly states for tiny homes right now, but the state is beginning to open up to tiny homes, and it is only a matter of time before tiny homes become fully recognized by both zoning laws and building codes in the state.
Frequently asked questions:
What is the minimum square footage for a tiny house in Virginia?
When it comes to tiny homes in Virginia, the minimum square footage allowed is 200 square feet. And if you’re going to build your tiny home on a foundation, you must ensure it meets the required building codes.
How much does it cost to build a custom tiny house?
While tiny homes may not be as expensive as traditional homes, they also cost a fortune. For starters, tiny homes can cost between $40,000 to $100,000.
Can you live in a shed in Virginia?
Living in a shed in Virginia isn’t allowed, and that’s because sheds are classified as a 10a building, which by law is a non-habitable structure. Similarly, carports, private garages and other similar structures fall under this category.