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What it Really Takes to Build a Tiny House in RI

What are the Options?

There are two types of tiny houses that you can buy or build. The first is a house on wheels; this can be considered an RV. On the other hand, a tiny house with a foundation is considered an accessory dwelling unit, AUD. In Rhode Island, a house built on wheels must be registered as an RV since they are legally considered vehicles instead of buildings. Recently, a state law has been issued; allowing owners of single family homes to build an AUD for senior relatives ages 62 years and older.

Where Can You Live with your Tiny House

When choosing between these options, you may also consider the regulations that come with each. For the RV’s, the regulations are much easier to abide by since you will not have to deal with the zoning and building codes. The only thing that you must be weary about is finding a place to park the RV. These places include a residence that has given you permission to park, a camping site or RV site. When planning on building a tiny house on a foundation, it becomes trickier since you will have to deal with more rules and regulations. These regulations include zoning bylaws and building codes which consider local factors and safety regulations. Additionally, they prohibit you from buying land and building a tiny house on it. Rather, you can only build a secondary unit on a single family house lot. The zoning rules determine the minimum size requirements that your tiny house must be according to the zone that it is located in it. It is known that most cities and counties have a minimum requirement of 1,000 feet for building a home.

Tips on Building a Tiny House

  • Look at the town’s bylaws. Pay attention to the wording, formalities and procedural recommendations. 
  • Network – not only at Town Hall (knowing your Selectmen, Town Planner, Zoning enforcement officials, Planning Board and Clerks) but also the Fire Chief, Police, and regular folk too! 
  • Have details READY (blueprints, preexisting example images, placement plans, building plans etc.) The town asks A LOT OF QUESTIONS!!! 
  • Consider taking a class (as above mentioned, Yestermorrow was really helpful for DIY building advice!) 
  • Be prepared for lots of questioning, answering and follow-up, and try your best to stay positive  

Which Municipalities are Tiny House Friendly!

Narragansett

In Narragansett, the construction of tiny houses are permitted. Some regulations include that there is no foundation required, however the structure must be at least seven feet high and meet the 127 mph wind zone requirements. When building the home, everything needs to be engineered so that it does not have any negative impacts on the environment. Additionally, three site plans and two construction plans must be presented before the construction process.

Warren

In the town of Warren, RI, tiny mobile homes are prohibited, on the other hand, the construction of a tiny house with a foundation is authorized. Moreover, there is no minimal square footage when building a home with a foundation. Before having your home constructed and approved, you must speak with an engineering firm to discuss the zoning rules. 

Bristol

In Bristol, RI, tiny houses must be constructed on a foundation, hence mobile homes are also prohibited. The city does not have any minimum square footage requirements. Normally, if the homes are planned to have some distance between neighboring properties, then building inspectors are not required, however property lines will need to be set if the property is in close proximity to the other properties. Additionally, when building these homes, it is important to remember that the bedroom must be approximately 120 feet or 10 by 12 feet. 

Coventry

If you plan to live in a tiny house in Coventry, unfortunately due to the extensive amount of regulations these houses may intervene with the zoning ordinances. One factor that may change this around is that tiny houses on a foundations are allowed on the lot of a single family home, however the lot must at least 20 acres. Additionally, mobile homes are only permitted within a license mobile home park.