Delaware Tiny House Laws

In many Delaware cities, tiny houses are legal. However, there are some restrictions you need to know about.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Jun 01, 2022
Tiny houses are sustainable, affordable, and fulfilling—but before you build (or buy) one, you need to understand Delaware tiny house laws. From zoning restrictions to city guidelines, there’s a lot to learn before you pick up a hammer.
While Delaware is not one of the friendliest states when it comes to tiny houses, it also doesn’t have any laws prohibiting tiny houses. Huh? Compliance and construction can be tricky! We’re here to help you make a plan so you don’t make any costly mistakes.
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There is not currently a statewide law on tiny houses in Delaware. You’ll need to check your city’s guidelines to find out whether a tiny house is legal in your area. New Castle County and
Kent County
follow the International Residence Code (IRC) guidelines with regard to tiny homes. Sussex County has made no official proclamation about tiny homes.
For your tiny house to be legal, you may need to conform to certain guidelines regarding the construction of the house. Zoning laws may also apply depending on whether the tiny home is a full-time residence. Before you start browsing tiny houses for sale in Delaware, research your local ordinances.

Delaware cities that allow tiny houses

There are some cities in Delaware that are considered “friendly” to tiny houses. This list may change as more cities adopt the IRC guidelines. As of 2022, these are the Delaware cities that allow tiny houses:
  • Delaware City
  • Newark
  • Wilmington
  • New Castle
  • Dover
  • Harrington
Will the evolving economy and next generation of homeowners demand a change to tiny home laws in Delaware? This remains to be seen. 

What kinds of tiny houses are permitted in Delaware?

First, you need to understand that there are different kinds of tiny houses. Delaware does not have a singular definition of what constitutes a tiny house, but the following structures may be considered tiny houses if they are between 120 and 400 square feet:
  • Manufactured homes
  • Factory-built homes
  • Park trailers
  • Custom built homes on trailers
  • And more
If the tiny house is built on a foundation, it’s considered a permanent dwelling. If the home has wheels, it’s considered a THOW (tiny houses on wheels (THOWs)—which comes with additional requirements. 

What does a tiny house need to be up to Delaware building code?

In Kent County and New Castle County, structures under 400 square feet must conform to the
IRC guidelines for tiny houses
. To meet the standards set by the IRC, a tiny house must have:
  • Minimum of 320 square feet of land, if built on a foundation
  • Minimum of 120 square feet, with at least 70 square feet for non-sleeping areas
  • Minimum ceiling height of 6 feet 8 inches
  • Have at least one habitable room with a closet and openable window
You’ll also need to meet the IRC’s requirements for light, ventilation, plumbing, emergency exits, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
In addition, tiny houses in Delaware must adhere to the local county or municipal building code, such as the
New Castle County Building Code
or the
Sussex Building Code

What about tiny houses on wheels? 

There is one key difference between immovable tiny houses and tiny houses on wheels. While all tiny houses must conform to local construction guidelines and permit requirements, THOWs must be road-safe under Delaware law. 
  • No wider than 8’ 6”
  • No taller than 13’ 6”
  • No heavier than 10,000 pounds.
If your tiny house is wider than 8 feet, longer than 40 feet, and contains more than 400 square feet, it is considered a mobile home by the Delaware DMV—and this designation comes with additional requirements. Titling a mobile home will cost $35 plus a document fee of 3.75 percent of its value.
If your tiny house is smaller but still road-safe, it is considered a trailer according to Delaware law. The titling fee for trailers is $35 plus a document fee of 4.25% of its value.
Tiny homes on wheels must be inspected and approved before they can be titled at the
Delaware DMV
Key Takeaway You can build a tiny house on wheels (THOW) or a tiny house on a foundation, but different regulations apply. 

Where can I park my tiny house in Delaware?

One of the first questions you need to answer regarding your tiny house is where you will put it. Will you buy property, park it in a friend’s yard, or travel with your new tiny house?
In Delaware, there are no specific laws about where to park a tiny house. You should follow the rules for recreational vehicles. However, bear in mind that different rules apply if you plan to live permanently in your tiny house rather than travel temporarily.
City zoning laws are the best place to start when researching where you can put your tiny house. Bear in mind that the
housing situation
in Delaware is rapidly evolving. 
At the moment, most counties do not allow for ADUs (accessory dwelling units) in yards. The counties that do allow ADUs have strict limitations. In Sussex County, ADUs may not be full-time dwellings with kitchens. In Kent County, there is a special exception for elderly parents—but the unit must be removed once the parent leaves the property.

How to build a tiny house in Delaware

Ready to build your tiny house? Here are the steps you should follow to stay in compliance with the law and plan the perfect build:
  • Decide which type of house you want. Will it be a tiny structure in your parents’ backyard, or do you plan to build a THOW for adventuring?
  • Learn about your local building codes and zoning laws. The best way to find this information is to visit your local library or town hall.
  • Determine whether you’ll hire a company or DIY.
    Civic Works
    in nearby Baltimore could build your house, or try
    if you need a trailer.
  • Choose a location for your tiny house. You may decide to relocate to a different city with better zoning—or you may find a friend with a backyard.
  • Look into insurance for your tiny home. It’s not required by Delaware law, but insurance can help protect the thing you’ve just spent a ton of money building.
If you hire a company to build your tiny house, make sure they are
-certified. This can help you get the right kind of insurance for your new home.
Be aware that some building projects require preapproval in Delaware. To get preapproval, you may need to pay a fee and submit blueprints drawn by a skilled engineer or architect to the appropriate county office. However, tiny houses are a bit of a gray area. 
Remember: You’re not done until your tiny house has been inspected and approved!

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From a tiny dream to a big adventure,
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