North Carolina is becoming a popular state for tiny house living. Before you can move into a tiny house in NC, however, you need to familiarize yourself with North Carolina tiny house laws.
This post will serve as your introduction to building codes, zoning regulations, and best locations to build or place a tiny house in North Carolina. Let’s dive in.
- Are Tiny Houses Legal in North Carolina?
- How North Carolina Defines Tiny Houses
- What Areas in North Carolina Let You Live in a Tiny House?
- What to Know About Zoning Laws and Building Codes in North Carolina
- What to Know About Property Taxes on Tiny Homes in North Carolina
- Where You Can Put Your Tiny House in North Carolina
- Why Live in a Tiny Home in NC?
- Successful Tiny House Communities in North Carolina
- Tiny House Builders in North Carolina
- How to Build a Tiny House in North Carolina
- Move Into a Tiny House in North Carolina
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Are Tiny Houses Legal in North Carolina?
To begin with, let’s answer the most fundamental question you might have about living in a tiny house in NC. Is it legal?
The answer is “yes!” It is legal to live in a tiny home in North Carolina.
In fact, some communities in North Carolina-especially Raleigh-have gone out of their way to provide clear, detailed resources on tiny house laws to those looking to embark on the tiny lifestyle.
Can You Live Full-Time in a Tiny House in NC?
Yes, you can live full-time in a tiny house in North Carolina. That said, this is one of those states that limits how many days a year you can live in a recreational vehicle (RV). The maximum per year is 180 days.
So, legally speaking, you should place your tiny house on a permanent foundation rather than on wheels if you want to live in it year-round.
Note that you can sometimes get away with putting an RV on a permanent foundation and removing the wheels to circumvent the 180-day rule. For example, this is something you could do with a park model home. A park model is classified legally as an RV, but you can set it on a foundation.
How North Carolina Defines Tiny Houses
The exact definition for a “tiny home” in North Carolina depends on the jurisdiction where you want to place it. You will need to look up the specific definitions and requirements for your jurisdiction.
The American Tiny House Association provides a convenient cheat sheet that states that tiny homes can fall into four different categories with respect to permits in NC:
- Site-built (conforming to North Carolina Residential Code)
- Modular (conforming to North Carolina Residential Code)
- HUD-labeled manufactured home
- Recreational vehicle (park model homes and campers fall into this category)
Under the North Carolina Residential Code, tiny homes must meet these basic requirements:
- At a minimum, one room needs to feature 120 square feet of gross floor area or more.
- The minimum floor area for additional habitable rooms must be 70 square feet.
- The minimum width for habitable rooms is 7 feet.
There are additional requirements for ceiling heights, plumbing and more. You can click the link to the association’s site to read the rest, and to find out more about the rules for manufactured homes and RVs.
What Areas in North Carolina Let You Live in a Tiny House?
Many jurisdictions in NC are tiny house-friendly. Some places you could consider moving to include Raleigh, Rocky Mount, Wilmington or Charlotte. But those are just a few examples.
What to Know About Zoning Laws and Building Codes in North Carolina
Below, we are going to share some examples of regulations for tiny houses in various jurisdictions in NC. These examples will give you some idea what you can expect if you want to build or place a tiny home in this state.
A Quick Disclaimer and Reminder
As you are reading through this post, please be aware that we are not legal experts. We researched to bring you this information, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy. Tiny house laws evolve over time, and interpreting them can sometimes pose challenges as well.
So, before you build a tiny house or move one to North Carolina, always begin by looking up the laws directly with your local government. Check with both the city and county. This will ensure that you are looking at the most up-to-date and relevant information.
Tiny House Regulations in Raleigh, NC
The city of Raleigh has a specific definition for what constitutes a “tiny home.” If you want to build a tiny home in Raleigh, you can apply for a permit.
Here is Raleigh’s specific definition for a tiny home:
- Limited to 800 square feet footprint and 1,200 square feet in gross floor area
- Limited to 26 feet/2 stories in height
- Can contain one or two dwelling units
- Can be located on a flag lot. This only applies to the R-4, R-6 and R-10 zoning districts.
- Can be located on an otherwise smaller lot than a typical detached house i.e. smaller lot width, depth and area. This does not apply to the R-1 zoning district.
- Can be constructed as a Manufactured Home, but if so, limited to 600 sf in size.
Raleigh adds that you must build your tiny home in accordance with the Raleigh development code as well as the North Carolina state building code.
If you visit the linked page, you will find detailed instructions for how you can apply for a tiny home permit in Raleigh.
Tiny House Regulations in Rocky Mount, NC
Another community in North Carolina that provides specific and detailed information about tiny home regulations is Rocky Mount.
Rocky Mount provides details on tiny houses on the same page that it uses to cover accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
Both tiny houses and ADUs are welcome in this community. Rocky Mount explains:
“Accessory dwelling units and tiny homes do resemble, in some ways, mainly in terms of size range, set back placement, and in construction requirements and type. But the main difference between the two dwelling units in Rocky Mount, comes down to whether there is a “primary” home on the lot. For an accessory dwelling to exist there must first exist a primary dwelling.
A new construction tiny home can be erected on a single lot if it is built with foundation and adheres to the North Carolina Building Code or must be certified under the NC Modular Construction Program standards for single-family homes.”
You can visit the page for additional information as well as the steps to apply for your permit and build your tiny home or ADU.
Tiny House Regulations in Wilmington and Charlotte
In July 2023, Queen City News reported that the City of Charlotte got rid of single-family zoning. As a result, it is now possible to build multiple homes on an individual lot. As a result, we might start seeing tiny home communities springing up in Charlotte.
According to Jerry Insurance Agency, tiny houses in Charlotte and Wilmington can be as small as 150 square feet if they only have a single occupant. For every additional occupant, you must tack on 100 square feet.
Tiny House Regulations in Buncombe County and Asheville
While you are exploring the various tiny house communities in North Carolina, you will discover that many of them are located in and around Asheville in Buncombe County. So, this very well may be the area where you are thinking of moving into a tiny home of your own.
Here is the main zoning page at the Buncombe County official government site. Scrolling down, you will notice a link to a page about “Vacation Rental, RV/Travel Trailer/Park Model/Tiny Home.”
That link will take you to this PDF titled “Vacation Rentals.” Despite the title “Vacation Rentals,” as far as we can tell, this document covers the county’s requirements for tiny homes in general, given the text in the link that brought us here. But this is something we suggest clarifying with Buncombe County directly before you start building. The info in the document is all very clearly presented, however, making it easy to visualize the requirements.
Another page you may find useful is this one on accessory dwelling units provided by the City of Asheville.
What to Know About Property Taxes on Tiny Homes in North Carolina
If you owned a traditional full-size home in North Carolina, you would be paying property taxes on it. So, do you need to do that if you own a tiny house instead?
The answer to this question depends on the nature of the tiny house. North Carolina does not have property taxes for tiny homes if they sit on foundations. But if your tiny house is on wheels, then you will need to pay a property tax, because NC imposes property taxes on all recreational vehicles.
Also, do not forget that if you own your own land, you need to pay property taxes on the land itself, regardless of what type of tiny house you have on it. That brings us to our next section.
Where You Can Put Your Tiny House in North Carolina
If you are moving into a tiny house in North Carolina, you have a few different options for where you can place it.
One idea is to buy your own land. You will need to set up utilities if they are not already in place, after which you can put a tiny home on the land.
Another option is to move to a tiny house community that was specifically developed for living in tiny homes. Some of these communities have homes or lots you can lease. Others let you purchase a lot, or bring your own tiny house.
Another possibility is to move into an RV park. Remember, quite a few tiny houses are classified as RVs.
Keep in mind that communities and parks have individual rules and restrictions. Some may not allow residents under a certain age, or might turn away homes that do not fit certain specifications.
Why Live in a Tiny Home in NC?
Here are a few reasons to move into a tiny house in North Carolina:
- North Carolina’s cities and counties are increasingly relaxed with regards to tiny house regulations, giving you many potential areas where you could move in a tiny home.
- Quite a few tiny house communities in North Carolina are located in scenic spots that provide you with ample opportunities for outdoor recreation (see the section below for some examples).
- If you move into a tiny home community in NC, you can meet likeminded people. At the same time, the spacious lots available in rural communities give you plenty of privacy, making for an ideal balance.
- North Carolina is a pretty affordable state for living in a tiny house. You will be surprised at how inexpensive the rent is on lots even in stunning locations.
Successful Tiny House Communities in North Carolina
Let’s take a look at some tiny house communities where you could consider living if you get a tiny home in NC. These are just a couple of examples-if you do additional research, you can discover even more exciting places to move into a tiny house in NC.
Perhaps the most famous tiny house community in North Carolina is Acony Bell. Located between Asheville and Brevard, Acony Bell is surrounded by the majesty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 50 acres of land ensures that every resident has ample space to themselves and untrammeled views of the grass and forested hills.
Acony Bell’s convenient location ensures that you are never far from town’s amenities, while making you feel like you are out in the wilderness. The community itself also has some excellent amenities, such as a community garden, a chicken coup, a community center, biking and hiking trails, and a stream.
You bring your own tiny home to this community (rather than buying a home already located on the premises). You then lease your spot and pay rent on that.
Simple Life is a company that owns several tiny house communities in North Carolina. These include The Village, The Hamlet and The Meadows. If you move here, you will purchase one of the company’s cottages, which include 1- and 2-bedroom models. You will have an opportunity to customize your home.
Your location will put you within a short distance of Hendersonville and Asheville. That means you will be residing in the same Blue Ridge Mountains area that you would be at Acony Bell.
Simple Life’s communities include all sorts of amenities. You can look forward to taking advantage of a clubhouse, a yoga studio, a fitness center, a dog park, a bocce ball court, a community garden, a library, and a reflection garden.
Tiny House Builders in North Carolina
Given the rising popularity of tiny living in NC, it should come as no surprise that there are a number of high-quality builders and designers based in the state. Here are a few you might want to check out.
As the name suggests, this is a tiny home builder based right in Raleigh, NC. The company writes, “Tiny Homes Raleigh specializes in ADUs (accessory dwelling units), Cottage Court Developments (multiple tiny homes on a residential lot), and consulting on what to do with your property. We only do tiny spaces so we are master’s of our craft.”
Their home designs feature a blend of modern and contemporary features for a look that would be right at home in any neighborhood. Along with tiny houses, they also offer some layouts for slightly more spacious homes that are still on the small side.
This tiny house builder is based in Western, NC. Their smallest models are just 200 square feet, but like Tiny Homes Raleigh, they also offer some larger floor plans. Along with building homes, they also develop communities, and put a strong emphasis on principles such as inclusivity and energy efficiency.
Another North Carolina company you can work with on your tiny home build project is Blue Ridge Tiny Homes. This company offers deep customization of their designs, building a home that meets all of your lifestyle needs.
Blue Ridge Tiny Homes gives a lot of attention to detail, and can incorporate unique artistic elements that take your tiny home design to the next level (for example, a staircase with live edge wood steps, or racks for vertical planting integrated into the exterior).
How to Build a Tiny House in North Carolina
You are excited to move into a tiny house in NC. But how do you go about it? Here are the basic steps to building a tiny home in this state.
- Once you have done the careful planning and research above, you can write down a list of wants and needs for your new home. During this stage, you also can determine your budget.
- Now, it is time to work on the architectural plans for your tiny house. You can also select a builder at this time (often, the same company that designs your tiny house can build it for you). Consider picking a tiny house company that is based in or near North Carolina. This will help to minimize your shipping costs.
- Try and pick a specific site for your home, and either begin leasing it or purchase it.
- Work with the architect on the plans until they meet your satisfaction. If you intend to keep the house permanently in one location, you can take advantage of site features, designing the home to make the best use of sun, shade, wind, etc.
- After finalizing your plans, apply for your building permit. Submitting all of the application materials you need correctly the first time will help speed this process along.
- Next, you can seek financing if you need it. Bear in mind that it can be hard or impossible to obtain a traditional mortgage for a tiny home in many cases. The builder will usually be able to offer you suggestions for alternative financing. Note that it is easiest to get financing for tiny home construction if you already have completed the plans, which is why this step comes after that one.
- The builder will begin construction of your tiny house when you are ready, updating you throughout the stages of the build so you can see how the project is unfolding.
- If necessary, prepare the site and the foundation.
- The tiny house will be shipped to your site. Some assembly may be needed; once it is complete, you will be ready to move into your new home.
Move Into a Tiny House in North Carolina
North Carolina is a state that is becoming increasingly friendly to tiny house owners and builders. So, if you like the idea of living big in a small home, check out some of our recommended builders and communities, and continue researching tiny house laws in NC. Before long, you could be moving into your very own North Carolina tiny house.