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Massachusetts Tiny House Builders: A Guide to Tiny House Laws and Regulations

CEO Tinh Phung
Are you considering building a tiny house in Massachusetts? You're in luck! Massachusetts is known to be one of the more tiny house-friendly states in the U.S. This is largely thanks to the state's adoption...

Are you considering building a tiny house in Massachusetts? You're in luck! Massachusetts is known to be one of the more tiny house-friendly states in the U.S. This is largely thanks to the state's adoption of the 2018 International Residential Code, which includes Appendix Q. In this article, we will explore the laws and regulations surrounding tiny houses in Massachusetts, whether you're building on a foundation or on wheels.

Tiny Houses on Foundation

Massachusetts follows specific safety laws and building codes for tiny houses on foundation that are smaller than 400 square feet. Although you have the freedom to build a tiny house on a foundation, it's essential to adhere to your municipality's zoning codes. These codes can vary by city and county.

Appendix Q provides regulations for tiny houses on foundation, including minimum ceiling heights, loft dimensions, emergency escape openings, and more. Here are a few key regulations to keep in mind:

  • Habitable space and hallways must have a ceiling height of at least 6 feet, 8 inches.
  • Bathrooms, toilet rooms, and kitchens must have a ceiling height of at least 6 feet, 4 inches.
  • Obstructions such as beams, girders, ducts, and lighting should not extend below the minimum ceiling height.
  • Lofts can have lower ceiling heights, but they must have a floor area of at least 35 square feet and be at least 5 feet in any horizontal dimension.
  • Loft guards must be at least 36 inches in height or half of the clear height to the ceiling, whichever is less.
  • Tiny houses must meet the requirements of Section R310 in the One-and-Two-Family Dwelling Building Code for Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings.
  • Windows must be installed within reach and provide adequate egress.

It's worth noting that tiny homes on a chassis are limited to a maximum of 400 square feet, excluding lofts and additions.

Tiny Houses on Wheels

Tiny houses on wheels are regulated differently in Massachusetts as they are classified as recreational vehicles (RVs). While it is legal to have a tiny house on wheels in Massachusetts, living in one full-time can be challenging. RVs, including tiny houses on wheels, must be registered with the state and comply with the regulations for recreational vehicles.

One significant setback for living in a tiny house on wheels in Massachusetts is the restriction on parking year-round outside of designated areas for recreational vehicles. Local zoning laws heavily regulate this, making it difficult to find a permanent location for your tiny home on wheels. However, some cities and counties may have exceptions to this rule, so it's best to contact your local representative for more information.

Tiny House Laws in Key Massachusetts Counties: Local Zoning Ordinances

Different counties in Massachusetts have varying regulations for tiny houses. Here are a few examples:

Barnstable County, Massachusetts

Barnstable County is known for being particularly accommodating to the tiny house community. They allow detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs) if the ADU or main house has been occupied by the owner for at least six months. While using the ADU as a long-term rental property is legal, it's important to note that Airbnb rentals are not yet permitted as ADUs.

Middlesex County, Massachusetts

In Middlesex County, ADUs are allowed, but both the primary house and the ADU must be owned by the same landowner. Tiny houses on foundation are allowed as primary dwellings, but regulations for tiny houses on wheels are still not well-defined.

Nantucket County, Massachusetts

Nantucket County permits tiny houses on wheels that meet the criteria outlined in Zoning Bylaw 139. These dwellings are defined as "a detached structure containing a dwelling unit with less than a total of 500 square feet constructed on a moveable trailer to be attached to a foundation pursuant to a building permit."

Tiny House Building Codes In Key Cities Of Massachusetts

Cities in Massachusetts also have the authority to create their own regulations surrounding tiny houses. Let's take a look at a few examples:

Cheshire, Massachusetts

Cheshire allows mobile homes to be permanently lived in, but this rule only applies to certain districts. You can live long-term in a trailer, mobile home, or RV in A-R and B districts when you obtain a special permit from the Cheshire City Council. However, living full-time in an RV is not allowed in R-1 districts.

New Ashford, Massachusetts

New Ashford permits living in a tiny house on wheels, but only if you are building a permanent home on the same property and plan to live in the tiny house temporarily. This restriction can be limiting for tiny house enthusiasts in New Ashford.

Southborough, Massachusetts

In Southborough, tiny houses on wheels are welcomed as permanent dwellings, provided that the owners of abutting land approve of this usage. To proceed, you must apply for permission with the Southborough City Council, which will review your request within three months.

Building a tiny house in Massachusetts can be an exciting and rewarding endeavor. With the adoption of Appendix Q and various county and city regulations, you have the opportunity to create a cozy and sustainable home. Just remember to familiarize yourself with the specific laws and regulations in your area before embarking on your tiny house construction journey. Happy building!

Picture: Image Caption: A beautiful tiny house in Massachusetts, showcasing the state's tiny house-friendly regulations.