Virginia Tiny House Laws

While tiny houses are legal in Virginia, each city and county may enforce their own requirements and restrictions.
Written by Andrew Biro
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Whether you want to live off the grid or stay mobile in your tiny home, Virginia is a great state to do it in, but getting started can be tricky. The Virginia Residential Code allows tiny homes to be built across the state, but gives cities and counties leeway in the specific guidelines they can enforce. If you want to be in compliance with state and local building laws, you’ll have to become intimately familiar with city regulations and zoning requirements.
As tiny homes become more and more popular—both in Virginia and the United States at large—building codes are slowly shifting to accommodate the regulation of smaller, less conventional house types. This being said, tiny house laws are not uniform and can change drastically depending on the state, county, and city you reside in.
Navigating the world of tiny house laws is a lot easier said than done and prospective tiny-house homeowners will likely have questions regarding what they can and cannot do. That’s why licensed home and
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Yes. Tiny houses are legal in all of Virginia and the state has even adopted statewide guidelines for building and occupying tiny homes, adapted from the IRC. This does not, however, mean that counties and cities do have the ability to place restrictions or further requirements regarding the building and occupation of tiny homes.

Virginia cities that allow tiny houses

In accordance with Virginia state law, all cities must allow homeowners to build tiny houses per Virginia building code, but each city ordinance may place their own individual restrictions. This means it might be easier to build in one city than another, so weigh your options carefully.
Listed below are some of the most tiny-house friendly Virginian cities:
  • Arlington
  • Ashland
  • Berryville
  • Norfolk
  • Richmond
  • Virginia Beach
Some of these cities—such as Virginia Beach—don’t have specific tiny home ordinances but will still treat them as any other residential space as long as state building codes are met.
Key Takeaway Virginia is gradually making it easier for people to build and live in tiny homes, but individual rules and regulations may vary widely between cities and counties, so it is best to conduct a site-specific inquiry to determine what you can and can’t do.

What kinds of tiny houses are permitted in Virginia?

In general, Virginia permits a wide array of tiny house types, including tiny houses on wheels (THOWs), RVs and camper vans, backyard cottages, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and even standalone homes that are constructed on their own plot of land.
Some cities and counties, however, only allow certain types of tiny houses, so you’ll have to do a site-specific inquiry into your local regulations and building codes to find out which kinds of houses you are permitted to build in certain zoning areas.

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

For a tiny house to be in accordance with Virginia Residential Codes, it must meet the requirements outlined by Appendix Q of the International Residential Code (IRC):
  • Is built on no less than 320 square feet of land
  • Has square footage that falls within 120 and 400 square feet
  • Habitable rooms must have ceilings of at least 6’8’’
  • Ceilings in kitchens, bathrooms, etc. must be at least 6’4’’
  • Contain at least one habitable room with both a window and a closet
Other requirements may apply if your tiny home has a loft and stairs leading up to said loft. All tiny homes must also have standard IRC emergency escape and rescue openings, except for those with egress roof windows.
Once these are met, tiny homes simply need to follow the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code to be in compliance with the law.

What about tiny houses on wheels?

For the most part, tiny houses on wheels (THOWs) are allowed throughout the state with little restrictions and are registered as RVs, provided that they are less than 400 square feet. The only two Virginian counties with further restrictions are Buckingham and Fauquier County:
  • Buckingham County only allows THOWs in backyards and on private property, but they will allow homeowners to rent or buy land to park them on.
  • Fauquier County, on the other hand, does not allow THOWs in any form—all dwelling structures must be permanent fixtures.

Where can I park my tiny house in Virginia?

If you are living in a THOW, you’ll need to be familiar with where you can actually park your home when you’re not on the road:
  • If you plan on living in Virginia for an extended period of time, some counties allow THOW owners to buy or rent land to park their house on, so be sure to check with your local zoning office to see if this is an option.
  • If you were able to get your tiny home recognized as an RV or caravan, you may also be able to park it in an RV park, campsite, or state park, though they may have restrictions on how long you can stay.
Ultimately—and like everything else regarding tiny house laws in Virginia—where you can park varies throughout the state, so you’ll need to check parking regulations in each place you stay.
Key Takeaway For the most part, Virginia allows a wide range of tiny house types, ranging from accessory dwelling units to standalone homes to tiny houses on wheels—restrictions, regulations, and building codes are still largely influenced by zoning location, however.

How to build a tiny house in Virginia

If you’ve decided to construct a tiny home in Virginia, here’s the checklist you’ll want to follow to make sure you’re in compliance with the law: 
  • Decide on the type of tiny house you want. Do you want to be able to move around easily, or would you prefer to build on a permanent foundation?
  • Research your local zoning laws and building codes. Digital copies are not always available, so check your local library, zoning office, or planning office for physical copies.
  • Find a tiny house building company. Build Tiny and Tiny House Building Company, LLC are two Virginia based companies that can help you design, plan, and construct your home.
  • Settle on the right place for your tiny house. Depending on the type of tiny house you’re building, this could require moving to a different zoning area or simply finding someone who will allow you to build in their backyard.
  • Compare home insurance rates. After your tiny house has been completed, make sure to purchase insurance for it. Even though it’s not required by Virginia law, homeowners insurance is an investment you’ll want to make, in the event your home is damaged or broken into.
As long as you’ve obtained a permit to construct a single-family dwelling, you cannot be prevented from building your tiny home within proper zoning requirements.

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Whether or not you need a permit depends on the type of tiny house you’re wanting to build. If you’re looking to construct a tiny home on a foundation, you will have to obtain a permit for building a single-family dwelling. If you have a tiny house on wheels, it will likely need to be inspected and registered with the Virginia DMV, but does not require an explicit permit.
Fortunately for the most minimal of tiny-home owners, Virginia has no minimum square footage requirements for houses and dwelling structures—your tiny house is allowed to be as tiny as you like, so long as it meets Virginia’s IRC building codes. The only exception to this rule is in Staunton County, where tiny houses must be at least 200 square feet to be considered legal.
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