Whether you want to build a tiny home on a landed property or relocate to an area with excellent tiny houses on wheels, you need to understand that rules differ from state to state in North America.
Generally, the state of Illinois accepts tiny homes. However, regulations and codes vary by city, town, or county. Therefore, as an aspiring tiny homeowner in Illinois, it is essential you engage in detailed research to help you navigate the legal landscape in choosing the right location for your small home.
In this article, we will discuss the legal structure of tiny houses in Illinois, what kind of tiny houses are allowed in the state, building codes for tiny homes, and other relevant information about tiny house laws in the state.
Read this piece before you conclude your plans to join the tiny house movement and pack into a small house in Illinois.
Let’s get started!
Tiny houses are legal in Illinois. However, the State leaves building and zoning laws up to each individual city and county, meaning tiny houses are not accepted in all areas and counties.
For example, Chicago and other close suburbs do not allow tiny houses.
This is a common occurrence in most major cities. Hence, to build or live in a tiny home in Illinois, you might want to look for a gray area.
The closer you are to rural areas, the more likely you will be free from legal disputes regarding the placement of your tiny home.
Your best bet is to find an Illinois land use attorney who will provide you with the right legal advice.
The regulations that determine how a tiny home is situated vary across Illinois.
However, when it comes to the kind of tiny houses that are permitted in this state, you typically will find the following:
Let’s take a quick at the legal landscape surrounding each type.
The state of Illinois hasn't adopted Appendix Q via the IRC 2018 when it comes to tiny houses on foundations. Therefore, cities and counties are left to decide which rules are allowed and which aren't regarding the legality of tiny homes on foundations.
Tiny houses on wheels are allowed and classified as recreational vehicles (RVs) in Illinois. They can be legally parked in several campsites, but understand that not all counties accept full-time RV residency.
To avoid legal issues that can come with illegal parking, only park your tiny house on wheels at a designated RV park and communities open to THOWs.
If you need more detail on the regulations for all buildings, which includes tiny houses on wheels, trailers, van campers, motor homes, and all camping trailers, Section 1-169 Illinois General Assembly sheds more light.
The Illinois building code for structures such as tiny houses is rigorous. Tiny houses and other small structures need to follow them to be considered.
Let's take a quick look at the requirements for permanent, temporary, and transitional structures.
When it comes to permanent structures in Illinois, the laws are very flexible.
If you are located in a county or city open to tiny houses, then you can build small houses on the foundation of your land, live in it permanently and use them for work or recreational activities.
However, note that the Illinois building code states that all permanent structures must adhere to the International Building Code (IBC) or the International Residential Code (IRC).
Therefore, ensure your tiny house builder adheres to the International Building Code and the International Residential Code.
Some considerations to keep in mind concerning building permanent tiny home structures include the following:
A permanent tiny house in Illinois needs to have a good foundation that can stand the test of time. This foundation must comply with the municipality's building codes.
Solid foundations include beam foundations, permanent piers, and traditional concrete foundations.
Another thing a tiny home needs to meet Illinois building codes is safety standards which must align with Illinois safety standards for buildings.
When inspecting safety standards, local authorities check fire safety, structural integrity, and electronic wiring. Ensure your tiny home uses approved building materials that comply with the local building codes.
All structures in Illinois must meet certain building size and height restrictions depending on the locations.
Hence, tiny homeowners should ensure their structure doesn’t exceed the recommended size and height for their desired location.
Generally, the required height of tiny houses in Illinois is:
You should also not forget to get approved permits from the municipality before placing your tiny house on the land. Failure to do so might result in being fined by the inspection team from the local department.
Furthermore, tiny houses must have the proper egress and emergency exits, which comply with laid-down safety regulations.
Now that you know some of the requirements for setting up a permanent structure based on this code, any alteration must be approved by your local building.
This implies that all tiny house owners must submit their plans.
If you plan to build tiny homes in Illinois, your housing plan must comply with the codes before the local building department approves them.
You may also like: Tiny House Safety Tips for Natural Disasters.
Temporary tiny houses, such as those on wheels, can be built on the back of a trailer and moved around easily. They are very affordable and generally legal in unzoned areas of Illinois.
Since all tiny houses on wheels are classified as RVs, some counties in Illinois may permit owners to live permanently on them.
Note that tiny houses on wheels may require proper inspection before you are allowed to place them in any location.
In Illinois, there is no clear law on transitional structures. People who don't have a place to stay permanently will find transitional structures, which can include tiny houses on wheels, helpful.
To build or own a transitional house in Illinois, you will need to talk to the municipal authorities in your desired location.
With over one hundred counties in Illinois, the permissibility of tiny houses varies across Illinois counties. Each county is allowed to amend the building laws to suit its needs.
While some counties may have more lenient regulations, others may impose stricter requirements or prohibit tiny houses altogether.
Also, in some counties where tiny houses are illegal, the city ordinance 13-0-21 may override the county's laws. With that said, here are a few counties that allow tiny homes:
Livingston County is tiny house-friendly but requires 672 square feet on the ground floor.
Evanston is a city in Cook County that has taken steps to embrace the tiny home movement.
It adopted the ordinance 13-0-21 by the City Council on March 22, 202, which allows homes of 500 square feet or less.
Even though tiny homes on foundation and THOWs are not legal in Cook County, this forward-thinking approach by the city of Evanston provides an opportunity for tiny house enthusiasts in Cook County.
Living permanently in a tiny house in Illinois is tricky. This is because several counties in the state, such as Chicago, consider tiny houses illegal.
While living in a tiny house on a foundation in place is possible in locations open to tiny homes, tiny houses on wheels is a different subject.
You can park and live in THOWs in several locations in the state. However, living in them shouldn’t be permanent. You will receive legal notice if you try to stay there for long.
To put your tiny houses in any location in Illinois without violating building codes, consider cities and counties open to tiny houses.
Also, consider moving to more rural areas of Illinois. Regulations in such areas might be more flexible.
With all that said, ensure you consult local zoning ordinances and authorities to ensure compliance is essential.
Illinois's minimum square footage for a dwelling can vary by jurisdiction. However, take note of the following regarding the size requirement in the state:
That said, it's essential to research and adhere to your desired location's specific minimum square footage requirements.
The ability to build a tiny house in Illinois depends on local zoning laws and building codes. Researching the specific requirements of your desired location is crucial.
That said, the following are some locations in Illinois that have shown a degree of friendliness toward tiny homes:
The City of Quincy is tiny home-friendly, making it a safe place to build your dream small house. It has a community of tiny homes designed specifically for veterans within its city limits, demonstrating support for alternative housing options.
If you have enough space on your property in this city, accessory buildings, also known as ADUs, can be placed in your rear yard but make sure it does not exceed an area of 1,200 sq. ft.
Asides from the city of Quincy, here are some other tiny house-friendly locations.
Although the above-listed places are tiny house friendly, make sure to research and understand the specific zoning regulations, tiny house building codes, and any additional requirements imposed by local municipalities in Illinois before you begin your tiny house project.
You may also like: The Essential Guide to Your Tiny Home Improvement.
Property tax requirements for tiny houses in Illinois can vary depending on the jurisdiction and how the tiny house is classified.
In some cases, tiny houses on wheels may be subject to personal property taxes, similar to RVs.
On the other hand, tiny houses on a foundation may be subject to traditional property taxes. It's best you consult with local tax authorities to understand the specific tax implications for your tiny house.
Tiny houses on wheels can be legally parked in the following places:
Besides the above places, individual counties have discretion over where you can and cannot live full-time in your tiny house on wheels.
Just make sure to research the specific regulations put in place by counties or municipalities of your choice.
The ability to build and place a tiny house in your backyard in Illinois is subject to local zoning ordinances and building codes.
Some areas may allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) or backyard cottages, while others may have restrictions or prohibitions.
It's crucial to research and understand the specific tiny house regulations of your area before pursuing a backyard house project.
Read also: Tips for Adding a Storage Shed to Your Property.
The cost of building a tiny house in Illinois can vary depending on factors such as size, design, materials, and labor costs.
While providing an exact figure is challenging, estimates suggest that building a basic, tiny house can range from $40,000 to $100,000.
To get an exact cost, obtain quotes from tiny house builders or suppliers for a more accurate estimate for your specific project.
While Illinois may not have a large number of dedicated tiny home communities, there may be opportunities to join intentional living communities or find like-minded individuals interested in tiny house living.
These communities can provide social connections, shared resources, and a supportive network for tiny house enthusiasts.
Here are a few examples of tiny home communities in Illinois:
The Stelle community, located in Illinois, is rooted in a philosophy of community, cooperation, and democracy.
Residents share control of various infrastructures and enjoy shared amenities such as a community center, utilities, common grounds, greenbelts, parks, and roads.
Illinois Tiny House Co-mmunity is a Facebook group that welcomes anyone interested in tiny houses.
It provides a platform for members to share ideas, materials, tools, and advice related to tiny house living.
Whether you're considering a tiny house on wheels, a shed conversion, a cabin, a bus conversion (skoolie), or going off-grid, this digital tiny house community offers a space for discussion and support.
When moving into your tiny house in Illinois, you should understand the city's rules and regulations governing structures.
While tiny homes are legal in the state, most cities frown on having tiny houses permanently. You will need to contact the county-building department to know their stance on tiny houses before moving in.
Moreover, keep in mind that you will still need to pay taxes for your tiny houses in Illinois counties. These taxes apply to both tiny houses on wheels and small houses on foundations.
Planning to embark on the tiny home living lifestyle? Check out Tiny House Vacation Rentals: Trying Out the Lifestyle Before Committing. This article will help you decide if the minimalist life is for you.
Find answers — straight from the author — for the most common questions about this article.