Tiny Home Rules
Where can I put my Tiny Home?
Zoning and Building Codes ZONING
Most jurisdictions - cities or counties - are divided into zones or districts that regulate the physical development of the land and limit the uses to which a property may be put. These zoning districts also regulate the height, overall size, and placement of buildings on a lot, the density at which buildings may be constructed, and the number of parking spaces that must accompany each new building. The metro Atlanta area has over 60 jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction has its unique approach to land use. They don’t all use the same designation for their building and zoning departments or the same terms to describe their regulations. Typically the different residential districts are named something like R-20 or R-30, but each place has its own system.
The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) also takes an annual survey called the Government Management Indicators (GOMI) survey and from it prepare a COUNTY GOVERNMENT CATALOG. The data collected through the GOMI survey is prepared by the DCA and administered to all 159 counties in Georgia with a response rate of 98 percent. This document provides the data collected directly from local governments which is relative to zoning including: Management functions, E-Government Services provided, Economic development activities, and Planning, zoning and development procedures.
One thing the survey conveys is that not all municipalities actually have zoning ordinances, which means those who do not currently have zoning ordinances may have less rules with which to comply (in theory). Below is a link to a map of such municipalities from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
While, Zoning Codes limit and prescribe land use, Building Codes designate the details of how the structures built on that land are to be constructed. Almost all jurisdictions in Georgia currently use the 2018 version of the International Residential Code - the IRC.
On November 15, 2017, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs approved the Tiny House Appendix "S", as well as approved a reduction in the minimum habitable room size (for all residential structures) from 120 to 70 square feet. The DCA has a great tiny house fact sheet explains how the zoning and codes govern various tiny homes. DCA FACT SHEET. This is similar to the Tiny House Appendix "Q" that was approved by the ICC to be added to the IRC nationwide in November 2016. As an appendix, it is up to counties, and cities to adopt this or some version of this code into their building codes. Here is a complete copy of the adopted GA Tiny House Appendix "S"(pages 9-11).
Since it is an Appendix to the IRC, it is optional for counties and cities to choose whether or not to adopt. If you would like your local municipality to adopt the tiny house appendix you can reach out to your local building department and inquire if they are in the process of adoption. If not, voice your support of the appendix to both the building department as well as commissioners and council members is a great way to start the process. The DCA even has a sample adoption for thy can use they decide to approve it. DCA SAMPLE ADOPTION FORM
The 2012 IRC designates the minimum for any habitable structure:
- R304.1 Minimum area. Every dwelling unit shall have at least one habitable room that shall have not less than 70 square feet of gross floor area.
- R304.2 Other rooms. Other habitable rooms shall have a floor area of not less than 70 square feet (6.5 m2). Exception: Kitchens.
- R304.3 Minimum dimensions. Habitable rooms shall not be less than 7 feet (2134 mm) in any horizontal dimension. Exception: Kitchens
- R304.4 Height effect on room area. Portions of a room with a sloping ceiling measuring less than 5 feet (1524 mm) or a furred ceiling measuring less than 7 feet (2134 mm) from the finished floor to the finished ceiling shall not be considered as contributing to the minimum required habitable area for that room.
Most municipalities in Georgia enforce the currently adopted building code, but occasionally they do not. Below is a map generate from DCA's GOMI survey.
TYPES OF TINY HOUSES
In the taxonomy of Tiny Houses there are two types:
1) On a Permanent Foundation
2) On Wheels
TINY HOUSES ON FOUNDATIONS
There are two classifications of Tiny Houses on a Foundations: stand alone and accessory dwelling unit (ADU).
Stand alone: This is one house built on one lot. The zoning regulations that would constrict or allow this type of use are:
Minimum Square Footage allowed- Some jurisdictions have square footage minimums, some do not. Some jurisdictions have small minimums of 650 or 800SF, for example. Noted are those that have no minimums or minimums less than 1000 SF. This information is provided in the links in the List of Jurisdictions below. Typically, it is difficult to financially justify building a stand-alone tiny house on an expensive piece of property.
Non conforming lot- This is when some characteristic of the lot does not allow a house to be built based on current codes. For example: the lot may be too small for the zoning district, or the lot is big enough, but the set back requirements constrain the space available to build, or the lot may not have the specified road frontage. Or something else. All jurisdictions have variance procedures that MIGHT allow you to build on nonconforming property. Variance procedures are not listed in the links below since they can be complex and particular to each jurisdiction. Typically you can find the process for requesting a variance at the zoning department’s webpage. Refer to the Summary of Regulations by Jurisdictions below to navigate to that page .
Accessory Dwelling Unit - ADU
These are commonly referred to as granny-flats, carriage houses, or mother-in-law suites. They will usually have rules concerning maximum and minimum square footage, location and set-backs to property lines, parking, or other requirements. You will always need to carefully read the local code and/or talk to a zoning official to completely understand these requirements. ADUs can either be detached - a separate building, almost always in the rear yard - or attached within the existing house - e.g. in the basement, attic… In all cases the property owner must live onsite either in the ADU or the main house. And there are other picky little rules related to ADUs. You gotta read the rules.
The City of Atlanta recently passed legislation to allow ADUs on R-5 properties which meet certain requirements.
If the place you want to live does not allow ADUs and you are willing to try to persuade the mayor and city council, or the county commission to make an addition to their zoning codes, here is a study you could use to frame your argument that the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) wrote in 2007 supporting ADUs:
In addition, here is another model you might follow to encourage any community to adopt zoning for ADU’s
TINY HOUSES ON WHEELS
Tiny Houses on Wheels (also know as "THOWs") have yet to be defined in most zoning ordinances. We provide some information on jurisdictions’ regulations concerning recreational vehicles ("RVs") and mobile homes in the List of Jurisdictions links below. But please carefully review the code yourself to determine where you can legally place a THOW in your jurisdiction. If the jurisdiction considers THOWs as RVs, they are not subject to the IRC building codes, they are governed by rules concerning RVs.
The Recreational Vehicle Industry organizes standards as follows:
Since a THOW would not be inspected by a local building department, the National Organization of Alternative Housing offers certification:
TINY HOUSE COMMUNITY
A tiny house community is usually comprised of tiny houses on a permanent foundation, though there are some that include tiny houses on wheels. This is often called a Cottage Court or Cottage Development- a piece of property that will allow several structures to be built around a common courtyard. Every place has their individual interpretation of what this is. Read the rules! Sometimes zoning can be changed to allow for these communities. Zoning change = zoning lawyers.
Here is an example of a change in the Zoning Ordinance that a community in Florida used to get their Tiny Home Community approved by the local jurisdiction - without the help of lawyers.
Here are two example of Cottage Court and Cottage Developments in Georgia:
SUMMARY OF REGULATIONS BY JURISDICTION
The information contained below is a starting point to aid your search for where micro structures are possible in Metro Atlanta. When you click on the link to each jurisdiction there will be other links there that will take you to their zoning department main webpage, the specific zoning code page, their zoning map, plus a phone number for that jurisdiction’s zoning planning department. Many of the code links only connect you to a main chapter. Please refer to the specific paragraph and sub-paragraph designations to find the specific information. Links break and rules change. If you find any of this information inaccurate or incomplete, please help by contacting Tiny House Atlanta to tell us what you find.
The route to the Zoning Code is through the jurisdiction’s webpage is in each summary below, although you can also find most codes on municode.com Read the zoning code pages carefully. If you have questions about the particulars of the zoning regulations, call the local zoning planner. Have the page open while you are talking so they can help you navigate quickly to the appropriate section to answer your questions. Also, some neighborhoods will have specific covenants covering a very wide variety of restrictions and specifications. You will need to discover these, where they exist, independently.
These jurisdictions are hardly 15% of those in the Atlanta Metro area, maybe less than 1% of all the cities and counties in Georgia. That makes trying to list them all not really practical and not likely possible. And, the information these charts provide is only a summary. So, in order to help give you the ability to discover the zoning limitations anywhere you may want to live, we have prepared six simple web videos that we call Zoning 201, to help guide you through the tangled maze of web pages, code articles, addenda, and the various whatnots and whatsits that can attend governmental legal writing.