HUD Wants to Make Living in a Tiny House or RV Illegal

Categories: Tiny House

There have been a number of conversations as of late regarding the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) new proposal entitled “FR–5877–P–01 Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations; Revision of Exemption for Recreational Vehicles” and its potential impact on tiny houses on wheels (THOWs). For those who have not yet seen the proposal, you can read the summary below.

The tiny house movement has taken America by storm, in part because our economy is in the toilet. People are striving to reduce their expenses by embracing minimalism. They’re breaking free from the corporate grind because, as I’ve always advised, they are learning to live with less and radically reducing their expenses.

But, these days in America, you are sharply admonished when you try to live your life outside of the strictures of the 9-5 world. Is it any surprise that the government is now taking steps to limit our ability to drastically reduce our expenses? They always seem to make illegal anything we try to do to be more independent and moving into a tiny house appears to be the next on their list.

HUD has proposed the following law:

This proposed rule would modify the current exemption for recreational vehicles in the Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations.  Under the current exemption, questions have arisen regarding whether park model recreational vehicles are regulated by HUD’s manufactured home program. These park models are being produced with patio roofs, screened in porches, and other extensions that exceed the 400 square foot maximum exemption in the current regulations. Additionally, some of these models are being marketed as suitable for year round living. HUD’s proposed rule would permit recreational vehicle manufactures to certify that a unit is exempted from HUD’s regulations. Specifically, HUD’s proposed rule would define a recreational vehicle as a factory build vehicular structure, not certified as a manufactured home, designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy, and built and certified in accordance with either the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1192-2015, Standard for Recreational Vehicles, or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A119.5-15, Recreational Park Trailer Standard. In addition, to provide consumers notice regarding the manufacturing standards used to construct the unit, HUD’s rule would require that units claiming the exemption display a notice that identifies the standards used to construct the unit and states that the unit is designed only for recreational use, and not as a primary residence or permanent dwelling.

That’s right – if this law is passed, living full time in a tiny house or an RV may become illegal in April of this year.


The new proposal would dictate that a tiny house, if built to ANSI or NFPA standards, is an RV and thus not suitable for permanent occupancy. The reality is that it is already illegal to live permanently in an RV in most places anyway. That is something that local zoning ordinances specifically dictate. So the problem here is the idea of certifying your tiny house as an RV rather than seeking permanent residential status through the building codes division.

Consider that in almost every community in the United States where zoning laws are enforced, RVs are considered temporary shelter and are only suitable for up to thirty consecutive days of occupancy. That doesn’t fit the model of tiny houses as permanent residences at all. For HUD to include all RVs that are “not self-propelled,” thus including THOWs is an acceptable practice on their part. In fact, I am not opposed in any way to HUD overseeing the construction of RVs if that is important to their industry. This is because my intention is, and always has been, to secure a path to legalization for tiny houses through the International Residential Code (IRC).


The IRC governs the vast majority of one- and two-family dwellings within the United States. It is a stand-alone residential code that specifically manages minimum requirements for all aspects of residential home construction including building, plumbing, mechanical, fuel gas, energy efficiency, and electrical work. It is this code that almost all jurisdictions rely on for their residential construction code compliance standards. At the end of an IRC compliant build, the structure is deemed safe for permanent occupancy and a certificate of occupancy is thus issued to the home owner. This is exactly the type of approval we as tiny housers need to live in our homes, full time and legally.

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