How-To Start the Tiny House Legal Process (part 2)

by andrewodom on February 20, 2013 · 9 comments


HouseLast we left off we were waiting to hear back from the county we hope to live in. The past week has found me on pins and needles waiting with anticipation to hear back. I wanted to give the Inspector time to review our website and see how far we had come and where we wanted to go with our tiny house. But by Saturday I was doubtful he even remembered us.

NOT THE CASE!

Yesterday afternoon we received a call from the Inspector. He had in fact reviewed our site rather thoroughly and as my stomach tightened and insides welled up into my throat he said

I don’t see a reason why we can’t work with you and get y’all back home.

And there it was. The words we had been longing to hear. In just one sentence all our worries about making our homestead legal and becoming a member of a community we love around our family and friends had subsided. The conversation continued.

Over the next 15 minutes I tried to mask my excitement as we talked about the legalities and steps that needed to take place. We were cleared to go ahead and have our tiny house trailer put on piers and strapped down (this answers the question of “what about hurricanes and winds and such?”) and taken off its tires (this answers the question of how to keep our tires from dry rotting.) The permit necessary [Mobile Home Application Package 2011] will be obtained by our brickmason/mobile installer and the work can be done immediately. Before we left North Carolina we had the gentleman come out and spec the job for us. To add 8 piers (they are required every 6ft.) and 8 straps (more on that in a future post) it will cost us $450. That is $150 for materials and $300 for labor.

After that is done we are to call a structural engineer. Now this comes as no surprise as it is exactly what Hari Berzins and her family had to do several weeks ago. The Inspector was so helpful that he even provided us a name and number of a local structural engineer who could come out and do the job. The job, you ask? The job is to review our tiny house trailer and make sure that even though we didn’t have a building permit and go through inspections when building, that it was structurally secure and worthy of passing inspection. Once completed he will then write a letter to the Inspector stating such. We are then free to begin the next phase of the process; obtaining a building permit.

Why a building permit?

For over a year now we have known two things:

  1. Our tiny house trailer would essentially move to our land in NC and then be parked indefinitely
  2. Our tiny house trailer was designed as part of a POD home in which our home with grow with the needs of our family

With the birth of our daughter our needs have definitely changed. Coupled with the fact that we do not have a bathroom on board our tiny house trailer we need a building permit to construct our ANNEX which is an 8′ x 30′ (same size as our tiny house trailer) POD that contains our bedroom, our daughters bedroom, a bathroom, and the washer/dryer. During that construction we will be building to North Carolina code and having our regular inspections.

We will continue to update this process as it happens. Right now though we are in a period of thanksgiving because we know that we have been blessed and God has opened up some major paths for us. I am so happy to be writing this post right now!

So step 2 in the legal process of a tiny house? Be prepared for the answer you get and don’t retreat. Keep the truth transparent and have faith that others will understand your desire to live small in order to live BIG!

 

How-To Start the Tiny House Legal Process (part 1)
How-To Start the Tiny House Legal Process (part 3)

  • mizacy

    Congratulations!!!! BIG news, it is always the ‘people factor’ that you deal with, you could have just as easily gotten a real jerk that just said ‘no way!’ and been screwed. THAT is the scary part to me, it’s a crap-shoot who you’ll end up talking to, it pays to be nice and friendly for sure!

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

      You are right. It IS a crapshoot. Luckily, for once, the ball didn’t fall red when all my chips were on black.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1348017982 John Hemingway Parkes

    450 dollars…a bargain, and a step towards being secure in a storm that may otherwise destroy your home.
    As difficult as it is to apply logic to many county building codes, many are worthy of enforcement, structural integrity, electrical safety, fire safety, and many more are too important to ignore.
    A home, tiny or not, should above all, be safe.
    A tiny home exaggerates two safety issues…fresh air circulation…the small volume of air contained in a tiny home greatly decreases the time needed for smoke or CO2 to poison you…and second, how quickly a fire would consume it and how little time you would have to react and escape when compared with a large home.
    Not all codes are bad… consider using materials that are flame retardent, some materials give off highly toxic gasses when burning, you won’t have much time if smoke ever fills your tiny home…poisonous gasses are an added disaster in an already deadly fire. Also consider an escape hatch or egress window from a loft sleeping area…just in case you can’t get down.
    In all it sounds like you’ve got a reasonable county official to work with, some aren’t so reasonable!

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

      A bargain indeed John. We were thinking it would be over $1k.

      I have not once argued with building codes (other than the arbitrary ones that seem to protect a tax provision and tax revenue income more than safety). I agree with you. All should be safe and a family should want to be safe in their home; no doubt.

      As for fresh air…we thought all about this. We have proper venting (suitable for a sticks ‘n bricks home) and maintain some indoor plants to also recirculate air. As for fire…we have thought long and hard. Our front and rear 4′ x 4′ windows are designed as emergency escapes and we fully understand that should a fire begin we have nothing to do but escape. In some regards it is like living in a matchbox. I hope more tiny housers are considering the same. Oh, we also don’t have a sleeping loft so we are always on the same level as our egress.

      I am very pleased to have met the Inspector and I look forward to continuing working with him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rhenrichsen Rusty Henrichsen

    WooHoo! What great news!

  • Pingback: And We’re Legal! A Certificate of Occupancy for our Tiny House | Tiny House Family()

  • http://twitter.com/RhondaRampy Rhondajo

    Good news! :)

  • Scott S.

    I’m just curious – if your desire was to put down roots and be part of the community, couldn’t you have built the house on a permanent foundation from the beginning? I’m a fan of tiny houses, and love your site, but my assumption about building a home on wheels is that you intend to move it at some point.

    I realize that some counties will not issue building permits for homes below a certain square footage, but since they’re willing to give you a permit after the fact, it appears that you could have built the same home you have now, but on a normal foundation. Or am I incorrect in my understanding?

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

      Yes. We could have easily built the home on a permanent foundation. However, you are thinking of mobility in only one sense. An easy enough mistake, for sure. The ability to be mobile does not mean you have to be mobile. Despite our piers, tie-downs, and role in the community we are still 100% mobile. We can leave at any time we deem necessary. If we were on a foundation our investment in a home would them be subject to the real estate market and once relocated would require us to start all over.

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