Texas Tiny House Laws

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Andrew Biro
Updated on Jun 1, 2022 · 7 min read
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When it comes to tiny houses in the Lone Star state, the viability of building one is, well, complicated. For all intents and purposes, tiny houses are legal, but there’s a lot of ambiguity surrounding laws and regulations, especially at the city level. The building codes, requirements, and any restrictions you’ll have to follow are largely dependent on where you decide to live.
With that being said, Texas can be a great place to build your tiny home, particularly if you’re interested in living remote or off-grid. Most counties—and definitely rural ones—have very little zoning authority and thus have less control over what you can and cannot build.
Nevertheless, navigating the world of tiny house laws is a lot easier said than done—prospective tiny-house owners will likely have questions regarding what they can and cannot do. That’s why licensed home and auto insurance super app Jerry has compiled this guide to everything you need to know about tiny house laws in Texas. 
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At a statewide level, Texas has no laws expressly prohibiting the construction of tiny homes, and most rural counties lack the zoning authority to fully disallow the building of tiny homes, though they may still enforce certain building codes and requirements.
The following counties are pretty tiny house friendly and are quite lax when it comes to zoning and building code issues:
  • Ellis County
  • Brown County
  • Baylor County (expect the city of Seymour)
  • Medina County
Cities, on the other hand, have much more zoning power and control over tiny house regulations, so you’ll have to check with your local permit/planning department or zoning ordinance to find out what rules you need to follow.

Texas cities that allow tiny houses

While all cities have their own regulations regarding tiny houses, there are few that definitively allow tiny houses, albeit with certain restrictions:
  • San Antonio: allows tiny homes according to the International Residence Code’s (IRC) guidelines
  • Houston: allows tiny homes with specific requirements
  • Spur: in 2014, the city council passed a resolution proclaiming Spur to be the “nation’s first tiny-house friendly town.”
  • Lake Dallas: home to a village of tiny houses on wheels (THOWs) built according to IRC Appendix Q
Key Takeaway Building tiny homes in Texas is becoming increasingly easier and a number of cities have begun to lay out specific guidelines pertaining to the construction of tiny homes. 

What kinds of tiny houses are permitted in Texas?

Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive list of permitted tiny house types for the entire state of Texas, so figuring out which kind of house you can build will require a site-specific inquiry. In general, however, tiny homes built on permanent foundations—AUDs, backyard cottages, standalone homes, etc—will be easier to have approved than tiny homes on wheels (THOWs).
This is not to say that THOWs are impossible to own—after all, Lake Dallas is home to a village of them—but they are rarer, and may not be classified as viable permanent residences by all cities or counties.

What does a tiny house need to be up to Texas building codes?

Building code requirements will likely depend on the city or county you reside in, so you’ll have to check with the local permit or zoning authority before you begin construction. Definitive building codes do exist, however, for San Antonio and Houston, and are included below.
If you decide to build your tiny home in San Antonio, it will have to meet the following IRC guidelines:
  • Built on a minimum of 320 square feet of land
  • Have minimum square footage of 150 square feet
  • Non-bedrooms must be at least 70 square feet
  • The ceiling must be at least 6’8’’
Houston, on the other hand, has a few different requirements:
  • Each dwelling unit must contain a habitable room with at least 120 square feet of floor area
  • All other habitable rooms—except for kitchens—must have the square footage of at least 70 feet
  • Habitable rooms, bathrooms, corridors, hallways, etc. must have ceilings at least 7 feet high
  • Each unit must have a water closet, bathtub/shower, and lavatory
Now, this is obviously not an exhaustive list of the requirements you must meet, but they do provide a starting point so that you know what to expect. Exact codes and regulations will depend on your specific location.

What about tiny houses on wheels?

In general, tiny homes on wheels (THOWs) are going to be considered RVs or some other sort of recreational vehicle. Permanent residence in these types of tiny homes is often prohibited in single-family residential zones, so you’ll probably be restricted to RV and mobile home parks.
Houston, however, classifies tiny homes on wheels as travel trailers and must be portable structures affixed to a permanent chassis, whose manufactured purpose is to be towed behind another vehicle and used as a temporary residence.
Key Takeaway Counties have very little zoning power when it comes to dictating the codes and regulations surrounding tiny houses, but cities have much more authority. It will be easier to construct permanent foundation-type tiny homes than it will be to have a THOW approved.

Where can I park my tiny house in Texas?

While finding a place to park an RV or THOW in Texas can be difficult—largely due to zoning restrictions—there are several tiny house communities that may be accommodating, so check out the list below:
  • Village Farm Tiny Home Community in Austin, TX
  • Royce City RV Park and Tiny Home Community
  • Indigo River Tiny Homes in Dallas, TX
As previously mentioned, it may also be possible to park a THOW at an RV park, state park, or campsite depending on the county you’re in, but these will likely have restrictions as to how long you can stay before having to move somewhere else.

How to build a tiny house in Texas

  • Decide what type of tiny house you want. Lenient zoning restrictions mean many different tiny house types are available, especially in rural areas—check to see what options are available to you.
  • Research local building codes and zoning laws. These may be available online or at your local library and will offer more site-specific information.
  • Find a company that constructs tiny houses. Companies like Texas Tiny Home Solutions and Tiny Texas Houses can help build your new tiny home and offer insight into navigating local regulations.
  • Decide the location of your tiny home. Depending on the type of home you choose, you may need to move to a new county or city where the zoning and building codes are accommodating.
  • Buy insurance for your tiny home. When your tiny house is built, you’ll want to make sure it’s protected by the right insurance policy. Although it’s not required by Texas law, homeowners insurance will protect the home you’ve poured so much time, work, and money into. 

How to save money on car and homeowners insurance

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FAQs

Regardless of where you build a tiny house in Texas, you will have to obtain a permit before beginning construction, especially if your tiny home is going to rest on a permanent foundation. Tiny houses on wheels do not need permits, but will need to be registered and inspected by the Texas DMV.
According to the International Residence Code guidelines for 2022, a house in Texas has to be at least 150 square feet and reside on a minimum of 320 square feet of land for it to be considered up to par with state building codes and regulations. This can, however, change depending on where you’re located, so it’s always recommended to do a site-specific inquiry before building.

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