DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
DIVISION OF CODES AND STANDARDS
2020 W. EI Camino Avenue, Suite 200, Sacramento, CA 95833
P.O. Box 1407, Sacramento, CA 95812-1407
(916) 445-9471/ FAX (916) 263-5348
From TOO Phones 1-800-735-2929
February 4, 2016
INFORMATION BUllETIN 2016-01 (MH, FBH, SHl, MP/SOP, RT, Ol)
TO: City and County Building Officials
Mobilehome and Special Occupancy Park Enforcement Agencies
SUBJECT: TINY HOMES
This Information Bulletin is intended to clarify the legality of use, design and construction approval of any residential structure that may be commonly referred to as a tiny home. Currently, neither the Department of Housing and Community Development (“HCD”) nor any other state or local agency has specific statutory or regulatory definition authority of construction approval for tiny homes as a specialty product. These structures, which may range anywhere from 80 to 400 square feet in size, may be built with a variety of standards or no construction standards; may or may not be constructed on a chassis (with or without axles or wheels); and are usually offered for use and placement in a variety of sites. It is the purpose of this Information Bulletin to describe when a tiny home fits the definition of one of the following: recreational vehicle (including park trailer), manufactured home, factory-built housing, or a site-constructed California Building Standards Code dwelling and therefore would be legal to occupy.
As residential structures, tiny homes must receive one of several types of state or local government approvals prior to occupancy, depending on the design of the structure and the location of its installation. While HCD supports efforts to make housing more affordable and efficient, state laws mandate that residential structures meet state standards. Failure to comply with these statutory requirements results in the tiny home being a noncomplying residential structure in which occupancy is illegal and is subject to punitive action by the appropriate enforcement agency, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).
In order to be occupied, a tiny home must comply with the standards of, and be approved as one of the following types of structures:
- a HUD-Code manufactured home (“MH”),
- California Residential Code or California Building Code home (“CRC” or “CBC”),
- factory-built housing (“FBH”),
- recreational vehicle (“RV”),
- park trailer (“PT”) or
- camping cabin (“CC”).
The approving agency will vary depending upon whether the tiny home is located inside or outside of a mobilehome park or special occupancy park…
RVs manufactured on or after July 14, 2005, must be constructed in accordance with the NFPA 1192 standard. Compliance with these standards can be determined by an owner-provided label or insignia similar to those issued by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) that is permanently affixed to the RV. However, an insignia issued exclusively by RVIA is not required (HSC §18027.3). For more information regarding RVIA certification, see http://www.rvia.org/.
Unless otherwise allowed by a local ordinance, RVs generally may be occupied only in
mobilehome parks or special occupancy parks governed by the Mobilehome Parks Act (“MPA”).
Enforcement and Prosecution
If a structure called a tiny home or similar name is sold, offered for sale, leased, rented or occupied as a residential structure which does not comply with the standards for any of the units described above, the enforcement authority having appropriate jurisdiction (as described above) is responsible for pursuing the appropriate legal remedies to terminate the sales, rentals or occupancies. The enforcement agency may initiate actions under the authorities listed previously and/or any other authority it has to abate the sale or occupancy of unpermitted structures including, but not limited to, the following:
- Prohibiting occupancy if the nonconforming structure violates local land use laws or violates any state or local public health, safety, fire, or similar authorities.
- Prohibiting the manufacture, sale, lease, rental or use in California.
- Mandating correction of any violations of applicable laws and regulations of a unit sold, leased, rented or occupied in California.
If you have any questions regarding tiny homes as they relate to this Information Bulletin, please contact the Manufactured Housing Program at (916) 445-3338 or by email to either Cesar.Ponce@hcd.ca.gov or MitcheI.Baker@hcd.ca.gov.
Read the full notice: http://files.ctctcdn.com/4d29178d401/ddccfe12-c56f-48cf-8ed9-8bbec86bb521.pdf
I vote for “California Residential Code,” “California Building Code” or “factory built housing” standards. RV standards will only add to “Not in My back Yard” (NIMBY) attitudes that will ultimately marginalize, restrict and ultimately define tinys as substandard housing. We need to advocate for tinys as alternative housing models: as housing continues to become out of the reach of middle-income households, tinys offer a viable ownership model to many. Yes, let’s standardize tinys but let’s do it in a way that helps tinys contribute to the supply of fair and equitable housing.
Consider this: the presence of this bulletin means we are gaining momentum! Jurisdictions are trying to figure out how to approve (or restrict) tinys in or out of compliance with state standards. Let’s choose to standardize. But let’s do it on our own terms!
That’s exactly the conclusion we have come to here on Martha’s Vineyard: Mass Building Code or Modular (i.e. Factory built) but NOT HUD (that code is a monstrosity of regulatory capture) and not RV… I’m actually not 100% sure that you’re even allowed to live full-time in an RV in Mass, even in a “mobile home park”, which they call “Manufactured Housing Community” and steer it all towards HUD housing.
And YES: on our terms. We are beginning to work with our Building Inspectors on a definition of tiny house that will work for us… theoretically, you can build a code-compliant house as small as ca. 180sf. It’s not easy, and the interior design “standards” are restrictive and annoying when trying to build minimal, but we will find a reasonable middle ground. Safety standards (fire code, electrical and such) are a no-brainer. No problem there. Off-grid for water and wastewater won’t work here, but tiny houses can share a septic system, and use (approved) composting toilets, which will help bring down the price to more or less within reasonable…
Zoning is another kettle of fish, and we’re also talking to our Planning Boards and Affordable Housing Committees. Zoning makes the Building Code issues look easy! But here, with the price of land as high or higher than it is anywhere in the country, we won’t get anywhere without some creative, tiny house-friendly zoning options. To be continued…