The Tiny house Blog

Alabama's Tiny Home Rules & Regulations

Updated on:
July 31, 2023
alabama tiny house rules and regulations

If you’re considering the tiny house lifestyle in the Cotton State, it’s crucial to know the rules and regulations that govern tiny homes.

In Alabama, the rules & regulations around tiny houses are not straightforward because a statewide building code has not yet been developed. 

This leaves the implementation of building and zoning codes and the management of homeowner compliance at the local or jurisdictional level. 

Hence, if you desire a minimalist life in this state, understanding its specific guidelines and staying compliant with the laws of your desired location is vital. 

In this article, we'll explore the intricacies of building a small house in Alabama and shed light on zoning ordinances, building codes, permitted locations, minimum size requirements, and other considerations you must be aware of.

Are tiny houses legal in Alabama?

Determining the legality of tiny houses in Alabama is not a straightforward issue with a simple yes or no response. The regulations surrounding tiny houses vary across the state, with different counties and cities having their own rules and zoning requirements. 

This lack of clarity can make it challenging to live in a tiny house in Alabama right now. However, some places have rules that are accommodating to small homes. 

For instance, ADUs are allowed only in a few areas of Jefferson County and are only allowed to be 200 square feet in size.

What kind of tiny houses are permitted in Alabama?

While Alabama does not have specific statewide laws addressing tiny houses, the following tiny homes may be allowed. However, they require you to meet specific requirements.

Tiny houses on foundations

Building a tiny house on a foundation and integrating it into an existing home is a common approach to meeting Alabama's building codes.

By following the specific building codes of the county where you plan to build, you can legally create an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or granny flat. 

Tiny Houses on Wheels (THOWs) 

Tiny Houses on Wheels
View the "Ynez" tiny house on wheels, a small but functional tiny house on wheels

When it comes to tiny homes on wheels, many counties in Alabama consider them as camping trailers, making them illegal for residential use. However, there are exceptions. 

Some areas permit THOWs as long as they are parked in designated RV parks or campgrounds. 

Living in a THOW full-time in residential areas may be restricted due to zoning and utility hookup limitations. Always check with your county's regulations and be aware of any restrictions or requirements regarding THOWs.

What does a tiny house need to be up to Alabama building codes?

To ensure compliance with Alabama building codes, a tiny house must meet specific requirements, whether intended as a permanent structure, a temporary dwelling, or a transitional home. 

Here are the fundamental rules and considerations for each category:

Rules for permanent structures 

First and foremost, if building a tiny house is permitted in your desired location, one of the rules is that the home must be placed on a foundation.

Secondly, tiny houses built on foundations must adhere to Section R310 of the International Residential Code (IRC) for one- and two-family dwellings. 

This means complying with safety regulations, structural standards, electrical codes, plumbing requirements, and other building codes applicable to the specific county where the house will be built.

Adhering to these codes ensures the tiny house meets the necessary standards for a safe and habitable permanent dwelling.

It's essential to consider zoning regulations, which dictate where and how permanent structures can be built. 

Rules for temporary tiny houses

Temporary tiny houses, particularly those on wheels, are often categorized as recreational vehicles (RVs). As such, they can be legally parked only in designated RV parks or campgrounds that permit long-term stays. 

It’s crucial to verify with the specific park or campground whether they allow tiny houses and to familiarize yourself with their regulations.

Utility connections are part of the requirements you need to meet for a temporary tiny house. These typically include water, electricity, and sewer hookups. 

RV parks and campgrounds typically provide the infrastructure for these connections, ensuring that your temporary tiny house has access to essential utilities.

You may also like: Embracing A Nomadic Lifestyle With Tiny House On Wheels.

Rules for transitional structures

Regarding transitional structures, they are temporary housing solutions during a transition to a permanent living situation. The rules and regulations for them can vary.  

To ensure compliance, check with the local authorities to determine the maximum duration allowed for transitional structures in residential areas. 

Each county has different regulations regarding the time allowed for these structures.

Also, transitional structures may require utility hookups similar to temporary tiny houses depending on the specific circumstances and location. This includes access to water, electricity, and sewer connections. 

It’s essential to evaluate the specific requirements based on your transitional structure’s needs and ensure compliance with the applicable utility hookup regulations.

What Alabama counties allow tiny houses?

Alabama tiny house
View the Denali XL, a stunning rustic yet refined tiny house on wheels

While the Cotton State is typically not friendly to tiny housing, each county has the freedom to amend the statewide building laws to accommodate the needs of their specific area. This has allowed some counties to be more open to tiny houses. 

Let’s take a look at some of these counties.

Jefferson County

Jefferson County has its own building ordinance that permits accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in certain districts as long as they are no larger than 200 square feet. This makes Jefferson County stand out as a county that indirectly allows tiny houses.

Baldwin County

Baldwin County follows the 2018 version of the International Residential Code (IRC), which includes Appendix Q, specifically addressing tiny houses. 

The adoption of Appendix Q legalizes features like lofts, lower ceiling heights, and egress requirements for tiny houses used as single dwelling units.

Madison County

Madison County also recognizes the 2018 version of the International Building Code (IBC), which includes Appendix Q. This makes Madison County exceptionally accommodating to tiny house living, as it legalizes many elements specific to tiny houses.

What are the tiny house building codes in major Alabama cities?

tiny house building
View The Dreamer, a simple tiny home designed by Alabama Tiny Homes.

In Alabama, regulations can vary between different cities. Let's examine some major cities and their respective building code requirements for tiny houses:

Valley, Alabama

Valley has building codes that adhere to the International Residential Code 2006 Edition. 

The majority of tiny dwellings are less than 400 square feet in size, which is forbidden under this edition of the International Residential Code. 

This, unfortunately, makes tiny living in Valley, Alabama, challenging.

Alexander City, Alabama

Alexander City is implementing the 2015 International Residential Code as its municipal construction code. 

This means that Alexander City is not explicitly suited to tiny homes, as its construction rule restricts dwelling units smaller than 500 square feet and does not permit lofts and other characteristics common to tiny houses.

Birmingham, Alabama

Like Alexander City, Birmingham follows the 2015 International Residential Code as its municipal construction code. This means the same restrictions apply to Alexander City and Birmingham residents.

Can you permanently live in a tiny house in Alabama?

tiny house
The Boxcar, a simplistic yet fully functional tiny house.

Living permanently in a tiny house in Alabama can be challenging due to the varying regulations and zoning restrictions across different counties and cities. 

While some areas may permit tiny houses as permanent dwellings, others may have limitations or prohibit full-time residency in tiny houses.

To determine whether permanent living in a tiny house is allowed, it is essential to consider the county or city's specific zoning regulations and building codes. 

We advise that you consult with local authorities, such as the planning and zoning department, to get valuable information on whether full-time residency in a tiny house is permitted and the specific requirements that must be met.

It's worth noting that regulations and attitudes towards tiny houses are evolving, and there may be opportunities for advocacy and dialogue to promote the acceptance of tiny houses as permanent dwellings in certain areas of Alabama.

How tiny can a house be in Alabama?

Since no statewide laws address tiny houses in Alabama, it does not have a specific statewide definition or minimum size requirement for a tiny house. 

That said, building a house as small as 200 square feet is possible. Despite their small footprint, tiny homes can still provide comfort and a sense of spaciousness through innovative layout and design.

Alabama tiny house
View Trinity, a two-bedroom modern tiny home designed to fit at least 4 people.

Where can I build a tiny house in Alabama?

Since there are no specific statewide regulations regarding tiny houses, it is difficult to determine what’s allowed and not allowed. 

The best way to decide where to build a tiny house in Alabama is to defer to the building codes within each jurisdiction.

That said, you should consider the following tiny house-friendly cities and counties when determining where to build:

  • Birmingham City
  • Montgomery City
  • Auburn City
  • Jefferson County

Check out the municipal codes in popular Alabama cities for information on what is allowed locally.

Do I have to pay property taxes for my tiny house?

In Alabama, property taxes are generally assessed based on the value of the property. If you own the land on which your tiny house is located, you may be subject to property taxes on that land. 

The tax assessment would typically consider the value of the land and any improvements made to it, including your tiny house.

However, property tax laws and rates can vary by county and municipality in Alabama. 

It's essential to consult with the local tax assessor's office or county revenue department to determine the specific property tax requirements and rates applicable to your situation.

Can I build and put a tiny house in my backyard in Alabama?

You can build and put a tiny house in your backyard, but only in cities and counties that are tiny house friendly. But remember, one of the rules your tiny house must adhere to is that it must be placed on a foundation.

Where can I park a tiny house on wheels in Alabama?

In Alabama, finding a place to park a tiny house on wheels can be a bit challenging due to various zoning regulations and restrictions.

However, there are a few options available:

  • Your property
  • Someone else's property 
  • RV parks
  • Tiny house communities
  • Neighbourhood or city lots 

Before parking your tiny house, always ensure you have the necessary permissions, permits, and agreements. 

Contact the relevant landowners, RV parks, or campground owners to inquire about availability, regulations, and any associated costs.

How much does it cost to build a Tiny House in Alabama?

The cost of building a tiny house in Alabama can vary depending on several factors, such as the size, design, materials used, labour costs, and location. 

On average, the cost to build a tiny house in Alabama ranges from $20,000 to $150,000.

Are there tiny home communities in Alabama?

There are tiny home communities in Alabama. While the concept is still relatively new in the state, a few notable communities cater to the tiny house lifestyle. 

Here are some examples: 

Harmony Woods Ecovillage

Located 30 miles southwest of Chattanooga, Tennessee, this intentional living community embraces environmental consciousness. 

Members strive to grow their own food, utilize local resources, and reduce their carbon footprint as a team. The community emphasizes collective ownership and sustainable practices.

Eagles Landing Tiny Community

Originally a seafood restaurant, Eagles Landing has transformed into a tiny house community on the shores of Lake Martin. 

It offers several tiny cabins for rent, providing guests with access to amenities such as private boat slips, a beach, a swimming pool, barbecue grills, and picnic areas.

Paradise Tiny Village

This unique community serves as a party and event venue, featuring nine themed tiny houses. Each tiny house is named after a popular drink and offers a cozy and festive atmosphere. 

Paradise Tiny Village provides options for hosting weddings, rehearsal dinners, and other events, with customizable packages available.

Minimalists of Birmingham 

The Minimalists of Birmingham is an online community for individuals in or near Birmingham who are interested in adopting a minimalist lifestyle. The group was created by The Minimalists and is led by Claire Williams.

The goal is to include anyone interested in Minimalism and living in Alabama. To join the group, you can reach out to Claire Williams via email at clairewilliams@prodigy.net or text at 205-242-2085.

While the number of tiny home communities in Alabama is currently limited, these examples demonstrate the growing interest and opportunities for individuals seeking to live in a tiny house community.

Takeaway: Learn the key tiny house rules in Alabama before moving into one

Alabama is not particularly friendly to tiny home living. Hence, before embarking on the tiny house journey, familiarize yourself with the state’s fundamental rules and regulations.

Remember that tiny homes on wheels are considered camping trailers, making them illegal for residential use in many cities and counties in this state. 

And if allowed, they must meet the requirements for a temporary tiny house and utility connections such as water, electricity, and sewer hookups.

Also, some cities and counties may allow you to build a tiny home and add it to your home, but it must be set on a foundation to meet the building codes for that particular county.

Remember that every city and county in this state has its own set of rules. To make informed decisions, research and communicate with the relevant authorities to ensure compliance.

For more on tiny house living, check out this informative piece: Tiny House Fitness: Staying Active in a Limited Space. It will help you discover creative ways to make the most of your tiny home’s limited square footage while physically and mentally healthy.

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