North Carolina Tiny House Laws

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Choosing where to build a tiny house in North Carolina can be a big task due to varying local building codes and zoning regulations. With tiny home communities springing up throughout the state, most counties now welcome micro-sized living. Tiny homes on wheels, however, are not permitted as a permanent residence.
North Carolina is routinely named as one of the top states for tiny home living. But navigating tiny house laws in the Tar Heel State can make it tough to get your foot in the pint-sized door. Before you pack your bags (or bag) and shack up in a shack-sized home, there’s a lot to know about the requirements you must meet to live in a tiny house. 
Car and home insurance comparison broker Jerry has compiled what you need to know about North Carolina tiny house laws so you can find the right place to hang your hat—if you even have room for that! 
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The short answer: yes.  The long answer: the definition of a legal tiny house all depends on the town, city, or county. Tiny homes on foundations are widely accepted as places to live, while tiny homes on wheels cannot be legally occupied as a permanent residence year-round.
One difference in requirements throughout the state is the minimum size requirements for a small home, so when settling on a place to settle, you may have to go big or go build your home in a different county. 
In most cities, including Wilmington and Charlotte, a home can be as little as 150 square feet for the first resident, plus100 more square feet per additional household member. 
North Carolina is one of the top states for tiny home living due to its climate and charm, and tiny living can be easy once you have navigated the local laws and building codes. One of the main challenges is comparing building codes due to the differing definitions used throughout the state. 

North Carolina cities that allow tiny houses

North Carolina is a hospitable place when it comes to tiny houses—and the people who live inside them, of course! While they may have different regulations, some cities that allow tiny houses include:
  • Asheville
  • Charlotte
  • Greensboro
  • Raleigh
  • Wilmington
  • Winston-Salem
Other cities and towns allow tiny homes as well. Be sure to check local regulations.

What kinds of tiny houses are permitted in North Carolina?

The tiny living movement is very popular in North Carolina, but there are more regulations, building codes, and zoning restrictions to adhere to than in some other states. 
For example, North Carolina does not allow a house on wheels to be a primary residence, and these can only be occupied for 180 consecutive days per year. Tiny home lovers will need to commit to a foundation to live large in a small home year-round. 

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

Building codes can vary by city, town, or county, but the following specs are relatively standard. Be sure to check local laws for a specific list of requirements. 
  • Tiny homes must be permitted by local jurisdiction, including zoning requirements.
  • Plumbing fixtures must be connected to an approved sewage disposal method. North Carolina does not allow storage tanks.
  • The home must contain a habitable space, which is a space for living, sleeping, eating, or cooking. A bathroom, closet, hall, or storage area is not considered a habitable space. 
  • At least one habitable space must be a minimum of 120 square feet of gross floor area. Additional habitable rooms cannot be less than 70 square feet, and no less than seven feet in any horizontal direction, excluding kitchens, which have no size minimum. 
  • Ceiling heights must be a minimum of seven feet in habitable spaces, hallways, and bathrooms. 
  • The home must contain a toilet, bathtub or shower, kitchen area, and sink.
  • The home must have a heating facility compliant with local code.
  • The home must meet code-compliant egress requirements (this refers to windows and fire exits).
  • The home must meet requirements regarding energy conservation and foundations.
Off-grid living is also legal in North Carolina, meaning if you are building in very rural areas you may not need to meet some of the above requirements. That said, in-depth building restrictions and zoning laws still apply, and it is not always possible to live completely separate from the grid. 
Off-grid living does present the option to live a more sustainable and simple lifestyle if that’s what draws you to tiny homeownership, so off-grid laws are also worth a look.

What about tiny houses on wheels? 

In North Carolina, tiny homes on wheels are considered to be RVs (recreational vehicles). Under North Carolina law, the longest continuous time you can live in an RV is 180 days—it cannot be used as a legal, permanent home. 
So while you could live part of the year in a tiny wheeled abode, you’ll need a secondary stationary residence.  
RVs and campers are only allowed as temporary living quarters, and while they can be temporarily blocked up or anchored, the wheels and axles must not be removed from the unit. Basically, trying to pass off an RV as a permanent dwelling in North Carolina is a violation of the residential code. 
Key Takeaway If you want to live in a tiny home in North Carolina, it will need to be built on a foundation and meet a series of building codes.
Where can I park my tiny house in North Carolina?
If you’re living part-time in your RV, you can find RV parks with long-term parking or travel to different campgrounds or beaches with short-term space rentals. Zoning restrictions vary by county, but often state RVs cannot be parked on or within sight of the street. 
But don’t forget: in North Carolina, unless your tiny house is parked permanently on an unmovable foundation, it can only be your home for 180 continuous days a year

How to build a tiny house in North Carolina

The first thing you will need when building a tiny house is a building permit. Check local laws and regulations to ensure your plans meet requirements.
When building your tiny home, make sure to: 
  • Draw up a floor plan and a building plan. You can purchase building plans or come up with your own
  • Ensure the land you are building on will meet your needs year-round
  • Gather the right materials. Source lumber, tools, windows, materials, tiny kitchen appliances, and any professionals needed
  • Ensure any plumbing, electricity, wastewater disposal, and gas line plans meet local requirements. You may need a licensed professional to install these systems
Due to the popularity of tiny homes in North Carolina, there are many home building companies that specialize in building tiny homes. Enlisting the help of a reputable local company will help you adhere to local standards and let you sit back and sip some tea while the gritty work is done.

How to find the best homeowners insurance in North Carolina

No matter the size of your house, you'll need a great home insurance policy. And it can be a major challenge to find one that meets your needs—especially if you're already dealing with the hassle of building a house.
If you’re hesitant to switch home insurance plans or providers because you’re worried about the work involved, don’t be. 
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FAQs

Square footage minimums in North Carolina vary by city or county. For instance, the square footage minimum in Durham is 400 square feet, while in Wilmington a house must be at least 150 square feet for the first occupant with an additional 100 square feet per additional occupant. 
You will need to check local laws for specifics on home size when building in North Carolina.
If you build without a permit, the best-case scenario is you are required to certify compliance with any applicable building codes, which will cost some money. Alternatively, you may be fined or be required to remove your home completely. 
It’s always best to ensure you have all necessary permits in place before you start your build. Keep in mind that you may need permits for small building elements you wouldn’t think are included in strict building codes.

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