Tiny Houses - A Landowner's Guide

Key info
  • The UK government views tiny house legislation as similar to caravans. However, be careful with planning permission and council tax in specific circumstances, especially if you’re using your tiny home as a permanent dwelling.
  • If self-building a tiny house as an affordable housing option, make sure to check that your design fits IRC regulations. Use the house loft to your advantage as this space doesn’t count towards the square feet limit.
  • Tiny houses have huge potential for unique development projects. However, make sure your objectives are to the benefit of the end consumer as UK laws are made with the intention to prevent homeowners from being exploited down to cramped residences.

Looking to downsize into an eco-friendly dreamland as a tiny house owner? This legal roadmap will pave the way to making your sustainable housing dream a reality.

As an affordable housing alternative to traditional homes, the tiny-house movement offers a practical solution to downsizing. Whether you’re looking to convert to a sustainable housing solution for you and your loved ones, or undergo a large development project to combat the affordable housing crisis, this guide will help you navigate through the main legal hurdles you may face when beginning your tiny house journey.

What is a Tiny House?

The 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) defines tiny houses as dwellings that are 400 square feet (37 square metres) or less in floor space, excluding the house loft area. As most tiny houses are built as a house on wheels, the UK government tends to treat them in law as a type of caravan or mobile home, given their functional space in a compact, mobile area.

If building your own tiny house, it’s worth checking the IRC to make sure everything is in line with your area’s building codes. However, most tiny house companies sell self-building kits as well as pre-made tiny houses, so you don’t have to worry about getting the sizing legally correct.

Fixed-Dwelling Rules

Tiny house model with Macbook and documents

Whether you’re looking to create a humble smallholding for you and your family to enjoy, or empower your budget by downsizing to an affordable housing solution, tiny houses are the ideal fit for your dream lifestyle.

Gaining planning permission becomes easier if you plan to use the house as a management station for your land. Agricultural land over 5 hectares in size can gain agricultural permitted development for an “outhouse” and so you can enjoy tiny house living for up to 5 years whilst your new outhouse is being built.

In addition, if you have a good reason to use your house as a workhouse in a private woodland area, for instance if you’re using the house on a forestry project, then there is a good chance you’ll be able to use your tiny house as a full-time dwelling and storage space with no legal issues.

If you’re planning on using your tiny house outside of your fixed dwelling on private land, you’ll be allowed up to 28 days a year without planning permission. This may be handy if you’re using your tiny house as a holiday home or guest house in addition to your primary residence.

If you’re planning to use your tiny house as an “additional living space” then you can follow the same rules as you would do for a caravan. This includes making sure the size is within 22 x 65 feet wide and long (19.8 x 6.7 metres), and keeping the house within the enclosure of your home as an accessory building, otherwise you’ll need to apply for planning permission. However, be careful of permitted development rights which may inhibit your building access to land in areas such as AONB’s or heritage grounds.

The Addland Professional Land Report can provide you with all of this information on your land to put your mind at ease.

With Council Tax, you’ll only need to pay if your tiny home is your permanent residence. Therefore, if you’re using it as a second house or holiday home, you’ll be exempt.

Developer Guidance

Tiny house developer guidance

As the popularity of tiny houses increases, there will be tremendous development opportunities for the intelligent project planner.

A tiny house village could be the perfect profit centre as you can attract many renters for less space. However, tiny houses are, by definition, houses too small to be considered legally the same as conventional houses, and so don’t provide the same flexibility to developers. You won’t be able to build a network of tiny houses simply for the purpose of providing cheap residency.

This is because UK law is specifically designed to prevent the financial exploitation of people by pricing them down to unnaturally small residences (and for good reason!) If your project’s objectives are designed instead to benefit the tiny-house lifestyle seeker, then your encounter with the planning department will be substantially more smooth-sailing.

Since most forms of tiny house model are mobile, you may also want to consider the possibility of building a tiny home site, similar to a caravan or park-home site. This removes the need to build or buy your own tiny houses whilst still creating a tiny house village community. This would also give your land more flexibility to go down a different project path in the future if you wanted to.

 Once you’ve gained an understanding of the legal framework your new house is operating in, you’ll be one step closer to joining the tiny house community and reaping the benefits of the tiny-house lifestyle.

Addland makes it easy to find, research, buy or sell land. Start your land journey today.

Published: 18 August 2021
Last updated: 31 January 2022

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