NEW Episode: Today’s Tiny House Parking Spot
Today, we’re in northern Utah. For the third time, we parked in my sister Nicole’s backyard. A wonderful way to visit family, striking a perfect balance—enjoying our private space and fun time together, as we choose. We’ve had the best time hanging out with her two little boys, Luke and Charlie, and her brand-new baby girl, Briana.
We first parked at Nicole’s place two years ago, for the winter. Back then, sweet Luke liked to shovel snow off our tiny house porch and steps. Their backyard conveniently features a gravel RV pad. Perfect for our tiny house on wheels. Though she doesn’t have RV hook-ups, fortunately, we can run our entire house, including our electric oil radiator heater, off 15 amps (a standard outlet). For more on our extended first visit and on winterizing, read this blog post.
Did you know backyard parking is the most common THOW parking situation?
Tiny houses in backyards act as accessory dwellings (ADUs). This set-up, on the property with a primary residence, is where you can find the vast majority of tiny homeowners. It’s a practical, convenient parking opportunity; closer proximity to resources, while utilizing available land and existing infrastructure. Backyard parking is mutually beneficial for the tiny dweller and property owner by helping to pay for and/or maintain the property. Especially valuable for elderly homeowners or single parents, or anyone who needs a little extra help. Often instead of full “lot rent” payments, work/trade arrangements are negotiated. For instance, the tiny dweller may be responsible for some property maintenance duties, like shoveling snow, in exchange for rent or reduced rent.
It is important to point out that most cities do NOT allow for tiny houses on wheels in backyards. Slowly but surely this is changing. Watch our films Living Tiny Legally to learn more. For now, most tiny housers are living under the radar, at the mercy of their neighbors. One neighbor complaint can result in a code violation notice and eviction, in as little as 48 hours or up to 90 days, in some cases. If you are uncomfortable with the risk, advocate for change through your local planning department or move to a place that allows for full-time tiny house living.
A few places where you can legally park as an ADU:
Eagle Mountain, UT
El Paso County, CO (unincorporated areas)
If you are OK with taking on the risk of parking on property not zoned for THOWs, there are a few things we highly recommend. The property owner, with or without the tiny homeowner, should talk with the immediate neighbors. Let them know what you’d like to do, and find out if they have any concerns. For instance, the founders of Going Places, a tiny cohousing community in Portland neighborhood, reached out to their neighbors and addressed the concerns raised. One concern was privacy, as one of two tiny houses had a window that looked into the neighbors’ yard. An easy solution: placing frosted, static window clings on the window, creating visual privacy. This initial communication began a process of building strong bonds and friendships with all their surrounding neighbors. Read more about this tiny house backyard community in my post on Tiny House Blog HERE.
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Additionally, we encourage you to be what we call a Respectful Rebel. Yes, you may not be following the zoning and building code rules, but that doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Fun fact: not being fully code compliant is somewhat common among some traditional homeowners—adding power to a shed, renovating a bathroom, or building an addition without proper permits or going against local regulations. Though as a rule-bender, you MUST be polite and responsible. Properly maintain your house, inside and out. Be an asset to your host (property owner), to your neighbors and the local community. You can take out the trash without being asked. You can offer a helping hand to a neighbor in need. You can volunteer for a local cause. Bottom line, if there’s one thing you should do, it’s be respectful.
How to find tiny house parking on someone’s property:
Create a flyer to post around town and online. Introduce yourself and your THOW. Pictures are great! Share your parking needs and what you are willing to offer in exchange for parking (rent, trade, etc.). Places to post your flyer:
Search parking listing sites:
Have any other tips for finding backyard parking? Please share below. Thank you!
-Alexis Stephens, co-founder of Tiny House Expedition