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California Tiny Houses

With its crazy real estate market, it’s no wonder California is the most popular state for tiny houses. Fortunately, more and more cities throughout the state are accepting them.

Tiny Home Builders in California

To keep up with the growing demand, several tiny house builders have popped up throughout the state, including:

26' Tiny House on Wheels - Zen Tiny Homes
Zen Tiny Homes

Are tiny houses legal in California?

Statewide

Yes! Effective January 1, 2020, the state of California adopted Appendix Q Tiny Houses of the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC). Not only did they adopt the appendix, but they made it mandatory at the state level, so we don’t have to wait for each local jurisdiction to adopt the code.

Also effective January 1, 2020, the California Health and Safety Code (HSC), Section 65583(c)(7) requires cities and counties to “develop a plan that incentivizes and promotes the creation of accessory dwelling units that can be offered at affordable rent…”

Cities / Counties

San Diego

July 21, 2020 – The City of San Diego passed an ordinance allowing tiny houses on wheels to be used as backyard accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

A movable tiny house is defined as a “…structure that is between 150 and 430 square feet in size on a residential lot, and that provides independent living facilities for one or more persons, independent of the primary dwelling unit, and
that includes permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.”

The city’s goal is to create more affordable housing for residents, so the tiny houses “…shall not be used for a rental term of less than 30 consecutive days.”

A Movable Tiny House (MTH) is a transportable dwelling unit that is constructed to comply with standards applicable to recreational vehicles. They shall be licensed and registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. A MTH shall:

  1. Not be larger than allowed by California state law for movement on public highways; and
  2. Not exceed one (1) story in height, and
  3. Not be able to move under its own power; and
  4. Shall have a floor area that is between 150 and 430 square feet and shall provide independent
    living facilities for one or more persons, independent of the primary dwelling unit.
  5. Shall not have a separate address from the primary dwelling unit.
  6. Only one companion unit or movable tiny house, and one junior unit are permitted on a
    premise. Guest quarters and non-habitable structures shall be permitted in addition to the
    companion unit or movable tiny house, and junior unit.
  7. A companion unit, junior unit, or movable tiny house shall not be used for a rental term of less
    than 30 consecutive days.
  8. Accessory dwelling units, including dwelling units as defined as companion units, junior units,
    movable tiny houses, or guest quarters are exempt from DIF impact fees.

For more details, you can visit the San Diego Movable Tiny Houses information bulletin.

Los Angeles

December 11, 2019 – The City Council of Los Angeles passed Ordinance 186481, which legalized movable tiny houses as backyard accessory dwelling units (ADUs). A tiny house must be between 150 and 430 square feet, licensed and registered with the California DMV, and be connected to water, sewer, and electric utilities.

From the city’s ordinance:

MOVABLE TINY HOUSE. An enclosed space intended for separate, independent living quarters of one Family as defined in Section 12.03 of this Code and that meets all of the following:

(a) Is licensed and registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles;
(b) Meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 119.5 requirements or the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1192 standards, and is certified for ANSI or NFPA compliance;
(c) Cannot move under its own power; Is no larger than allowed by California State Law for movement on public highways; and
(d) Is no smaller than 150 and no larger than 430 square feet as measured within the exterior faces of the exterior walls.

San Luis Obispo

March 7, 2019 – The San Luis Obispo Community Development Department updated its zoning regulations, which included provisions for tiny homes on wheels in the backyard of on a site with an owner-occupied single-family residence.

Fresno

On November 20, 2015, the City of Fresno was the first in the nation to legalize tiny houses on wheels as permanent structures adjoining a residence (called “Backyard Cottages”). The city zoning change went into effect on January 3, 2016.

Their tiny home requirements state: A Tiny Home is a structure intended for separate, independent living quarters for one household that meets these six conditions:

  1. Is licensed and registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and meets ANSI 119.2 or 119.5 requirements;
  2. Is towable by a bumper hitch, frame-towing hitch, or fifth-wheel connection. Cannot (and is designed not to) move under its own power. When sited on a parcel per requirements of this Code, the wheels and undercarriage shall be skirted;
  3. Is no larger than allowed by California State Law for movement on public highways;
  4. Has at least 100 square feet of first floor interior living space;
  5. Is a detached self-contained unit which includes basic functional areas that support normal daily routines such as cooking, sleeping, and toiletry; and
  6. Is designed and built to look like a conventional building structure

Tiny houses are legal in several other California cities, including Ojai, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and California City. There is a large push throughout the state to legalize tiny homes, so more cities and counties will be tiny house friendly in the coming months and years.

Tiny houses for rent in California

If you want to get a taste of what it’s like to live tiny, you can stay at one of these tiny homes in California: