The Legalities of Alternative Living Spaces

Alternative living spaces offer people an affordable and efficient way of life. However, many alternative living spaces reside in a grey area of the law and vary from state to state. Whether you're considering building your own tiny house or living in a communal living environment, here are some general legalities of alternative living spaces.

Tiny Homes

Tiny houses are one of the most popular forms of alternative living spaces. They're affordable to build, more environmentally friendly than their larger counterparts, and take advantage of the simple life. The only downside is finding a place to put them without breaking the law. Fortunately, you have several options at your disposal when considering to live in a tiny house.

RV Tiny House

A small green tiny home on wheels on a farm.

Putting your tiny house on wheels is a great option for long-term residence. This basically puts your tiny house in the realm of recreational vehicles (RVs). Not only does this set legal boundaries, but it also broadens the areas you can legally place your home. If your tiny house is on wheels, you can park it wherever is legal for an RV, motorhome, or travel trailer. The only catch is that you need to meet RV building standards and officially register it as an RV. Note that you also can’t get away with parking your tiny house discreetly because it’s harder to blend in than a traditional RV.

Tiny Foundation

A tiny home with a modern look.

If living on wheels isn’t your idea of alternative living, then you can always place your tiny house on a permanent foundation. Putting your house on a permanent foundation allows you to live legally without worrying about unlawfully taking up space. The biggest downside, however, is you will have to adhere to local building regulations, which often require a dwelling to be at least 500 square feet. Of course, you can always add on structures to meet this requirement, like an extra bathroom, office, bedroom, or storage unit.

Meeting Building Codes

However you decide to define your tiny house, make sure you follow whatever building codes are applicable. If you classify the home as an RV, follow all the regulations and officially register it as an RV. The same applies for placing the home on a permanent foundation. If you don’t follow these guidelines, you might run into legal problems down the road, especially if the laws change to encompass alternative living spaces.

Tiny House Legal Issues

Aside from location, other legal issues surrounding tiny houses make them difficult to manage. One big issue is plumbing. A good majority of tiny houses use composting toilets to dispose of waste. While this is a great alternative to traditional septic tanks and city disposal, most areas have made composting toilets illegal. Other potential hurdles include zoning laws, homeowner’s association restrictions, and minimum habitability regulations. These laws vary greatly depending on location, so make sure you double-check local laws before making any major moves.

Shared Housing

Another alternative way of living is through shared houses. By definition, these homes contain a group of people who are not related. These types of living conditions help save money without the burden of forming a large communal community. Types of shared houses include urban housing cooperatives, cohousing, and student co-ops.

Legality of Shared Houses

There aren’t a lot of legal issues that prevent individuals from communal living. After all, this type of alternative living has been around for a long time and is nothing new in the eyes of the law. That being said, you need to be very clear upfront about your expectations whenever you enter a shared house environment. This includes outlining who is paying for what and how everyone in the home will contribute to the household. Being as detailed as possible will help elevate problems down the road and can serve as a way to prepare for the worst.