Tiny House Eviction

Tiny House Eviction

In the past year, Guillaume (my partner) and I have traveled all over the United States and Canada with our tiny home. We have never been turned away from a campground. We’ve parked on private land: residential driveways, small business parking lots, etc. We’ve always had permission and finding a parking spot for our tiny home has never been a problem. In fact, I would say we’ve been welcomed with open arms…. that is, until now. We were just officially served our first Tiny House eviction.

Sure, I’ve heard the horror stories. A tiny houser purchases a plot of land, parks their handcrafted cabin-on-wheels onto said property, only to be served the worst housewarming gift of all time: an official notice stating you cannot live in your tiny dream home. These “tiny house evictions” are usually the result of a neighbor complaint made to the local zoning committee, and I naively thought our home was immune. After all, thousands of neighbors have seen our house parked in driveways across the country.

Tiny House Welcome To Colorado - 0001But, our luck finally ran out.

Let me back up for a moment. After traveling for an entire year, Guillaume and I decided to take a break. We chose to winter in Denver for a few reasons: 1). Proximity to ski resorts, 2). Friends in the area, and 3). Central location between my family in Illinois and his family in Los Angeles. We were lucky enough to secure a gated backyard parking spot in Commerce City, Colorado. It was all arranged and we were excited to stay with our gracious hosts: tiny house enthusiasts, Cal and April.

Commerce City THGJ - 0001

Cal & April’s Property – A double sized lot with fencing.

As we maneuvered into the backyard, a few neighbors came out to ask questions about our tiny house.

Commerce City THGJ - 0002

Our hopeful parking spot. We were going to cover the chainlink fence (on right side) for privacy.

Business as usual. We answered their questions and offered to give tours. The neighborhood seemed delighted and welcomed us. Once parked, we assessed our winter home. The fence that lined Cal and April’s yard was three-quarters wood and one-quarter chainlink. Our house was clearly visible from the street, so we discussed a plan to create more privacy.

But the following morning Cal received a notice from Commerce City Neighborhood Services.

 

Commerce City Zoning Courtesy Notice - 0001The Tiny House eviction notice stated that the property owner had 7 days to remove the “unlawful structure” from his property. Photos of our tiny house through the chainlink fence made it obvious that they knew the structure was on wheels. Guillaume decided to call the inspector to see if there was something we could do.

Commerce City Zoning Courtesy Notice - 0002

Photos taken by the Inspector through the fence

The inspector was courteous but uncompromising.

He said that RVs and Tiny Homes are allowed to be parked on a property for storage, but not for recreating (in other words you cannot sleep in them). It seemed to us that many people were “recreating” in RVs in the neighborhood, but none of them were as eye-catching as our tiny home. We were honest with the inspector, stating that we did intend on sleeping in our tiny home. He said he could extend the notice for another few weeks, but after that, the property owner would be fined.

Ultimately there was nothing we could do, except leave. Our options were to either park in a nearby RV park, trailer park, or move somewhere else completely.

Why were we served a Tiny House eviction?

The inspector from Commerce City Neighborhood Services told us that there had been a neighbor complaint. So that is why the city was on our butt only 18 hours after we parked in Cal and April’s backyard. 

I also believe that the recent Tiny House Jamboree, held in Colorado Springs with over 40,000 attendees, highlighted tiny homes in the state Colorado (and possibly everywhere). The zoning inspector mentioned his team had JUST held a meeting about the “issue of tiny homes,” and decided on a “no tolerance policy for backyard parking.”

Don’t get me wrong, I think public awareness for the tiny house movement is a great thing. I fully support the Tiny House Jamboree, Tiny House Conference, Tiny House Workshops and Tiny House TV Shows. I believe the more publicity for the moment, the quicker it will become accepted and certain laws will have to change.

The other side of the recent popularity is that certain zoning committees and campgrounds have become wary…

Because, not two days later, we had another Tiny House eviction experience!

After our backyard tiny house eviction from Commerce City (yes, I’m calling it an eviction), we decided to move our tiny house out of the city and closer to the mountains. We pulled into Tiger Run RV Resort in Summit County, Colorado, hoping to stay for a few nights. As we were checking in with the campground receptionist, this happened – 

“We JUST had a meeting about Tiny Homes,” the resort employee explained.”I love them. I want to build one. But the resort won’t allow you to stay here.”

I was gobsmacked, and frankly, a little embarrassed. It was the first time we had ever been turned away from a campground. I gazed down a row of million dollar RVs that were allowed to park at the resort, and thought to myself: This must be what Julia Roberts felt like when she tried to shop in “Pretty Woman.” 

For the first time ever, I truly felt homeless.

In our frustration, we almost left Colorado. It was ironic that the one place we wanted to be, was also the one place we felt shunned. I’m sorry if this article sounds like bad tiny house publicity for the state. There are plenty of tiny home owners living happily ever after in Colorado. And since these incidents, our tiny house has successfully secured seasonal parking in the state (but I won’t disclose our location).

We love it here in Colorado, and we’re not dismayed. In fact, Guillaume and I are proud to be a part of this chapter in the movement.

Tiny House Lowry Campground Sunset Colorado - 0001

Sunset at Lowry Campground, Summit County. We stayed here a few nights before finding seasonal parking.

Tiny House Parking Resources

Here’s the deal: People want to live tiny because it’s affordable, eco-friendly and promotes minimalism. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to do so in this country because building codes usually require a minimum square footage. This is why tiny homes are built on wheels, but it also means they fall under RV regulations. If it is not legal to park a RV (and sleep in it overnight) in your location, it is most likely not legal to do so in a tiny home. 

More on zoning and tiny home parking:

  • Zoning codes differ in every county and every RV park has their own set of rules. Tiny House eviction doesn’t happen everywhere.
  • Some RV parks only allow RVIA certified tiny homes (tiny homes built completely by a RVIA manufacturer).
  • Short term parking is a lot easier to secure than long term parking. 
  • If you’re planning on parking your Tiny House on a piece or land or in someone’s backyard, there are places where this is legal, but you should check your local zoning codes.
  • There are exemptions for parking on your own land. For example, if you move or travel with your tiny home it is not consider “permanent.” This might mean moving 15 feet every 15 days. You’ll need to confirm this with local zoning.
  • Tiny house communities are springing up all over the country. This is becoming a real option for tiny house parking.
  • Check out this very helpful website, which outlines tiny house parking options, including: cities that allow or have variances for tiny homes, tiny house communities and RV parks that allow tiny homes.

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Tiny House Eviction Unlawful Structure

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104 Comments

  1. Michael
    February 9, 2016 / 6:47 pm

    First let me say I support the THM and have been somewhat of an outside the lines guy my whole life. I think the pushback from the zoning arena is the high dollar investments don’t want anything to devalue their homes. That is understandable, if one is fair. Small homes or RV’s being lived in over the backyard fence is not something homeowners want to see. The idea that there isn’t a place for this unreasonable and arbitrary. Towns and cities should set aside areas for small home developments. The towns that encourage small homes will find an influx of smart, talented, educated and ingenious folks showing up and contributing to the livability of their town. The ability to think outside the box shouldn’t be discouraged but rewarded.

    • June 22, 2016 / 11:32 am

      Well said, Michael! I am currently part of a group of enthusiasts who have started to speak regularly during open comments of city council meetings. Tiny, mobile properties are no longer purely the choice of people who have no options… I want to live richly but very simply.

      • September 6, 2016 / 9:40 am

        I live in a 5br/3bath, 1200 sq/ft house. I use maybe 500 sq/ft if it. I can sell it with a profit of more than 100k. I just decided in the last couple weeks to focus on downsizing (too much crap!) to the point of selling and moving into a tiny home. It’s so deflating though to see stories like this. These zoning roadblocks are disgusting! It’s going to take me a while to be tiny home ready, and I would live to get involved in the interim. I knew someone something wasn’t right with tiny homes in Colorado when I saw a gorgeous one sitting in a residential driveway for sale a couple weeks ago.

  2. February 9, 2016 / 12:12 pm

    That’s Colorado for you. I have friends there so I visit, but you couldn’t pay me to live there. It’s beautiful, except for the people. My bad experiences in the Denver area are far too numerous to list, suffice it to say, I am not a fan.

    I found this article while searching for the ANSI A119.5 guidelines. I’m planning on building a tiny house this summer and I want it to be up to all RV codes and plaqued. Hopefully that will prevent issues like you had at the RV Park. It won’t change the minds of the “fine” folks in Commerce City however.

    I would be interested in starting a tiny home community or, better yet, being part of a network of tiny home communities across the US. As the movement gains steam I am sure the need will grow exponentially and lend an air of acceptability to the palates of people everywhere.

    • Marty L
      June 24, 2016 / 8:36 pm

      I agree with you 100%! My wife and I moved there 2 years ago because of her mandatory job transfer and it was the absolute worst experience of my life. Within the first two hours there I was chased by gang members at our motel and luckily the ol adrenaline pump saved my life. From that point on it only got worse and I couldn’t believe how different the people were in comparison to the rest of the country. I guess I should have known better after going through the airport and seeing all these horrific murals painted all throughout the airport.

      The most devastating event in my life occurred 13 months after moving there. My wife came home from work feeling sick at her stomach and asked me to go get her some soup. I went to get her some soup and sprite and came home to prepare it for her. I started to prep a bed tray and her food and went to check on her and she had passed away within a few minutes. Trying to make a long story short it turns out that the altitude and lower oxygen levels contributed to her death. We were never told or warned about altitude sickness or how the lower oxygen levels needed to be considered when taking medication or existing health problems. Because of the lower levels of oxygen fluid built up around her heart.

      Now I’ve made it my crusade to warn others that are considering moving or visiting that area. Because of my own personal events and experiences I despise that place and I honestly believe there is a different kind of people that reside there and maybe it’s linked to the lower oxygen level or maybe not but I will never return.

      • MIchael
        July 1, 2016 / 6:23 am

        I agree there is some serious negativity in Colorado. I’m sorry for your loss. I’ve talked to many people who have lived in Colorado and moved away for the same reasons. It’s not a place for friendly, happy people.

      • September 6, 2016 / 9:54 am

        Oh my goodness! I had no clue altitude sickness could be fatal. I’m so sorry for your loss. I do live here–born and raised, and have experienced altitude troubles, but I’ve also learned that keeping active is the number one way of killing its takeover. I’m sure any of my traffic-loathing locals would shun me for saying this, but instead of discouraging people from coming here, perhaps your story is much more important to educating the importance of staying active here while recognizing the issues and signs of altitude-related sickness.

  3. January 5, 2016 / 3:06 pm

    I too felt bad you guys ran into that issue and glad you are ok now. I had a reporter stop by a few weeks ago and asked if he could write my story and if not, he was still interested in talking to me about my tiny house build. So I agreed and the story was published yesterday. http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/20272967-95/dream-tiny-a-chichester-grandma-looks-forward-to-life-in-her-170-square-foot-house-on . He also did another story where he spoke to the building inspector guy near me. I have not talked to anyone yet about my house because for one, it’s not done yet and also even though we bought land, I’m not sure the town needs to know what we are doing unless it’s about the electric poles and water/septic. We bought almost 4 acres in rural area. I don’t mind paying taxes on the land either. I doubt the tiny house movement will ever go away because of all the people that don’t like the idea either. I’ve had quite a few people stop by my house once they figured out what I was doing to ask a lot of questions. I live in NH and a lady that lives in MA with her husband and one child stopped by one day. Her parents live in NH so they were visiting. She told me she was paying close to $2000 a month for their tiny 2 bedroom apt so they rent out one bedroom to help with the costs so they are really living in 3 rooms. That doesn’t make any sense to have to live that way. We are also renting a 700 sq ft house that cost $800 a month but we are also building my tiny house here. The 90 year old land lady is cool too except she thinks we are building my granddaughter a play house lol!! Anyway, I’ve enjoyed your journey so far and I appreciate you posting your stories as it helps me quite a bit!! Thank you!!!
    Megan

  4. Alden
    January 4, 2016 / 3:05 pm

    How did you manage to find a place that would allow tiny house… did you contact every RV park? Any suggestions for a future caravaner that weren’t mentioned in the blog post?

    • January 4, 2016 / 3:37 pm

      For our trip, we’d just call an RV park ahead of time telling us we were coming over with a 24ft travel trailer (we include the tongue). We never had an issue with several dozens of RV parks until Tiger Run.
      We also stayed in a lot of people’s driveways and backyards.

  5. ryan
    December 30, 2015 / 12:38 pm

    here is my question , i was looking into tiny houses but if its this much trouble why do it ,, or how does one get around these laws

  6. AprilMae
    December 25, 2015 / 10:07 am

    Even stick built non movable houses can have “spying” neighbors. Just consider the source and carry on. Don’t let one nosey neighbor dictate how you live your life.

  7. cinemanaic
    December 25, 2015 / 1:31 am

    OK, so I did a little google research and it seems that code that was cited is actually not applicable to your TH on 3 counts. First, your TH is not a structure in legal terms, it is a vehicle and so if you read the scope of the ICC that they cited it never mentions vehicles. So by code’s own definition vehicles are out of scope. Second, your house was not erected it was driven onto the property and so it should not fall under the ‘or’ clause of the cited code. Finally, even if it was a structure the ICC (the code they apparently pulled this from) actually has no reference to so-called codes pertaining to structures on wheels. Again out of scope, but for s subtle, but different reason.

    I’ve challenged my city on codes they tried to cite me on and won multiple times when they did permit inspections on DIY work I did on my big house. These guys are generally ex-contractors of sub-par intelligence and are mostly jobsworths that just like to wield power they think they have by dint of their title. They literally can’t think outside of the box. HOA board members are typically the same. I sound harsh, I know, but I have dealt with many inspectors, planning, and zoning folks and I can in my experience with these types there was <10% of them that didn't fit my description. It is something about government jobs that attracts the personality types and the IQ demographic.

    • December 25, 2015 / 7:35 am

      Turns out I did some research too and read the local zoning and building codes. We were definitely breaking the zoning code (not the building code since it doesn’t apply to mobile structures). It was pretty clearly cited that one could not reside in a mobile structure in Commerce City, even just for a night, unless it was in an area zoned for it (mobile home park or RV park). You can park and store your RV on your property but it needs to be unplugged and unused, and our issue started with a neighbor complaint so someone was watching.
      The grey area was in the definition and the use of the term “dwelling” since RV’s can’t be considered dwellings, yet that was how we were using ours. But it would’ve been a stretch.
      It’s great that you’re looking into all of this for your own situation. I do have to mention that the people we dealt with were very courteous and patient enough to answer all the questions we had. They wouldn’t budge, yes, but they weren’t jerks about it.

      • Adam
        April 5, 2016 / 6:36 am

        Hey guys!. . . reading all this stuff is fantastic info. I truly appreciate it! One question though – what if my tiny is completely “off the grid”? Would that be a possible loophole?

      • April 26, 2016 / 1:05 pm

        Glad you like our content. I don’t think the off-grid would help in any way for this situation. The only thing they cared about was if someone was in the house or not, regardless of being on or off the grid. But that’ll change from state to state, county to county depending on zoning. Usually though, off-grid doesn’t help in any way (it’s even illegal in some states), it’s really just about “living in a mobile unit,” regardless of being tied to the grid.

  8. cinemanaic
    December 25, 2015 / 12:50 am

    Wow guys, very sorry to hear about this. We’ve been building our own tiny house with fear and trepidation about the same issues you and other have just faced. It seems to me that we the tiny house community have to sponsor a conference and invite planning commission, building code, and zoning authorities from all over the country to attend and have an open discussion about what would be considered permissible and viable to enact as ordinances/laws. The reality is I think cities want and deserve their money on some level, reasonable level and fully understandable. Tiny housers see a tiny house as a means to escapes taxes, ordinances, and rules of all sorts. I too would love to avoid all of that, but in essence that would be unfair on some level because it means big housers pay and we get of literally scot-free. The biggest mistake politically the TH movement could make is to take the arrogant attitude that folks like the pirate’s bay clowns and others wanting to make digital downloads legal without paying did. Like somehow we are entitled to avoiding ordinances and codes just because we made the house ourselves. Without a win-win end goal in mind, this whole movement could be crushed, so I appreciate you guys treaded lightly and obeyed the authorities without going off. There may be a time for that in the future, but it seems wise that you didn’t do it now. Good luck.

    • December 25, 2015 / 7:24 am

      I’ve always agreed with your statement. We never went into tiny houses to avoid taxes, and to be honest, I don’t understand people that claim that’s their main reason. Most other tiny housers we know don’t do it to avoid taxes. I don’t mind paying taxes as long as they are used properly (I feel that’s where it falls apart though). I want good roads, good education, health care, etc etc and someone has to pay for that! Also, we stopped pirating music and movies years and years ago 😉 we buy or rent everything we want to enjoy now.
      You are right, educating the zoning and coding boards on what tiny houses are and where people want to be would be a great first step.

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