Are Tiny Homes Legal in California?

Flag of California
Tiny Homes in California
Legal StatusLegal, but the regulations vary from city to city. Tiny homes on wheels are allowed in RV and Mobile Home Parks.
Friendly CitiesZoning regulations vary significantly from city to city.
Building StandardsTiny homes must satisfy requirements of the California Residential Code and the California Building Code. Tiny homes on wheels must meet specific requirements to be classified under the Recreational Vehicle (RV) band.
Minimum Habitable SpaceThe minimum interior square footage required is 100 square feet.
Certificate of OccupancyTo live legally in a tiny home in California, one must obtain a special use permit or connect the tiny home to an RV park.
Tiny Homes on Wheels (THOWs)Must be registered and titled as an RV with the California DMV and comply with all California Vehicle Code requirements.
Plumbing and Electrical SystemsMust comply with the California Building Standards Code.

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Tiny homes are legal in California, but the regulations vary from city to city. Tiny homes on wheels are allowed in RV and Mobile Home Parks. There are two main ways to live legally in a tiny home in California: by obtaining a special use permit or by connecting your tiny home to an RV park. If you are planning to build a tiny home in California, you will need to become an expert in your local laws and regulations. All tiny homes must satisfy requirements of the California Residential Code and the California Building Code.

Tiny House Made Easy™

In some areas in California, it is illegal to use a tiny house as a permanent residence, but in others, tiny houses are legal as long as you follow the zoning and building codes of your city. Recently, SB9 passed in California, which allows for California residents to divide their existing property into up to four units. This means that even if you’re only adding on a tiny home for renting purposes, you’re unlikely to face code enforcement challenges.

What are the zoning and building regulations for tiny homes in California?

Zoning and building regulations for tiny homes in California are as follows:

  • Movable tiny homes are permissible and permanently habitable accessory dwelling units (ADU) or backyard cottages.
  • Tiny homes must comply with the California Building Standards Code.
  • Tiny homes on wheels are allowed in all zoning districts as long as they comply with the California Building Code.
  • The minimum interior square footage required is 100 square feet.

It’s important to check with local city and county regulations to see if any restrictions are in place. Also, all tiny homes must satisfy requirements of the California Residential Code and the California Building Code.

What are the requirements for registering a tiny home with California Building Codes?

To register a tiny home with California Building Codes, you must ensure that your tiny home meets the requirements to be classified as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and complies with the California Building Standards Code (CBSC). The CBSC includes both the California Residential Code and the California Building Code.

To meet the standards set by the CBSC, a tiny home must have a ceiling at least 7 feet 6 inches high, at least one room with a gross floor area of 120 square feet or more, and a net floor area of at least 70 square feet for all other living spaces. If your tiny home is on wheels, it must be registered and titled as an RV with the California DMV and comply with all California Vehicle Code requirements, including safety standards, lighting, and licensing requirements.

What is the process for obtaining state or local government approval for a tiny home in California?

The process for obtaining state or local government approval for a tiny home in California can vary depending on the city or county where you plan to build your tiny home. However, here are some general steps to follow:

  1. Determine the zoning regulations in your area: Zoning regulations will vary depending on the city or county where you plan to build your tiny home. You need to go through your local ordinances for an exact figure, but generally, a minimum interior square footage of 100 square feet is enough.
  2. Obtain a special use permit: You can typically obtain special use permits through the planning department of your city or county. The new permits will be available via a “ministerial” process. This means that the county staff must grant a permit if the requirements are met.
  3. Connect your tiny home to an RV park: Another way to live legally in a tiny home in California is by connecting your tiny home to an RV park.
  4. Ensure that your tiny home complies with California Building Standards Code: All tiny homes must satisfy requirements of the California Residential Code and the California Building Code. Your tiny home must meet the requirements to be classified as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and comply with the California Building Standards Code (CBSC).
  5. Register your tiny home: If your tiny home is on wheels, it must be registered and titled as an RV with the California DMV and comply with all California Vehicle Code requirements. If your tiny home is built on a foundation, it must be built in compliance with the California Building Standards Code (CBSC).

Differences Between a Tiny Home on Wheels and a Tiny Home on a Foundation

Here are the differences between a tiny home on wheels and a tiny home on a foundation in terms of zoning and building regulations:

Tiny Homes on Wheels:

  • Considered a recreational vehicle (RV) and must meet specific requirements to be classified under the Recreational Vehicle (RV) band.
  • May fall under the recreational vehicle code, which is far less stringent than the code required for a house on a foundation.
  • Must be registered and titled as an RV with the California DMV and comply with all California Vehicle Code requirements.

Tiny Homes on a Foundation:

  • Must comply with the California Building Standards Code.
  • Fall under the same building code as traditional homes.
  • Require a special use permit to be built.
  • Provide owners with home equity and can help build equity over time.
  • Have a lower total cost of ownership than tiny houses on trailers.
  • Do not offer mobility.

It is important to note that zoning regulations can vary depending on the city or county where you plan to build your tiny home. Therefore, it is crucial to become an expert in your local laws and regulations.