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