The Tiny house Blog

Pennsylvania Tiny Home Rules and Regulations

Updated on:
June 9, 2023
Pennsylvania Tiny Home

Are you thinking about living in a tiny house in Pennsylvania? 

Tiny homes are legal in Pennsylvania. Generally, tiny houses on foundations must abide by local zoning laws, the Building Code 2018 of Pennsylvania, and the Residential Code 2018 of Pennsylvania. Tiny houses on wheels are considered RVs and must conform to the 2018 Board of Vehicle Act 134.

Understanding these regulations can help you create your tiny home according to the highest standards and create a safe and satisfactory living environment.

Most importantly, you won’t live fearing that someone will report you. 

Keep reading to know Pennsylvania’s tiny house laws, where to park your tiny house, and more. 

Pennsylvania's tiny home laws and building codes

The State of Pennsylvania adopted and amended the 2018 version of the International Residential Code to create the Residential Code 2018 Of Pennsylvania and the Building Code 2018 Of Pennsylvania. All habitable spaces abide by these codes and local zoning ordinances for tiny homes. 

Due to the "newness" and unique nature of tiny house living, the State's Residential Code and Building Code do not address tiny homes explicitly.

But the tiny house movement grows stronger as minimalism proponents advocate for smaller dwellings to reduce the environmental impact and lower living costs. Besides, various county leaders feel the need to create affordable housing units.

So, counties like Lancaster amend/expand the code to accommodate their tiny home community’s needs. Other counties like York prohibit living permanently in tiny homes.

Zoning laws regulate land use and buildings for the public's general welfare, health, and safety. They dictate the type of structure you can have, whether you can repurpose an existing property or even replace it with something new. 

City zoning ordinances override county laws if you place your tiny house within the city's limits.

The best way to determine which rules bind your tiny home project is to investigate the municipality you’re targeting. You can contact the local zoning or planning department.

Local zoning ordinances in key Pennsylvania counties

Lancaster has the most lenient zoning ordinances, allowing tiny houses on wheels and foundations with no minimum house size requirements. Most local zoning ordinances in Pennsylvania restrict tiny houses on wheels, favoring tiny houses built on foundations. Others prohibit permanent tiny houses.

Bucks County

Bucks County’s zoning ordinance requires placing your tiny house on a foundation. So you can't live in a tiny home on wheels as a permanent dwelling. 

The county also has specific requirements for the size of the building and where you can place it in relation to other buildings or land areas. 

Read Buck County’s zoning ordinance to find out more

One art teacher, identified as Tina, told Insider how she lived like a fugitive in her tiny home in Bucks County for two years. The county’s zoning laws restrict living permanently in tiny houses. So Tina parked her house in a colleague's backyard and spent every day trying to look like she didn’t live there permanently. She eventually moved to Lancaster.

Lancaster County

Lancaster is very welcoming to tiny home enthusiasts. The county allows tiny houses below the minimum 70 sq ft floor area requirement due to the Ridge Run Campground rules. Since we had residents living permanently in their RVs on the campground, the county accepted tiny homes under the same rules.

After the campground closed permanently, a thriving community called Tiny Estates began in the same location (in Elizabethtown) in 2018. 

You can now permanently park your tiny home on wheels in the community. The community also has tiny house rentals.

Beaver County   

View The Courtyard Tiny Home on Foundation

In Beaver County, permanent dwellings must have a minimum habitable space of 800 square feet (74.3 m²), which is more than the typical tiny home’s floor space. In the case of mobile homes, regulations exempt additions when calculating the minimum floor area. 

Moreso, the county restricts using mobile homes for residential purposes in several districts, even after placing yours on a permanent foundation. 

York County 

Most York County municipalities don’t allow tiny homes as permanent dwellings because their minimum habitable space requirement is 700 square feet or more. 

The county also only allows one permanent residence per property - meaning you can’t use your tiny home as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). 

An ADU refers to an additional living space that you can attach to or separate from an existing home - like a granny flat.

However, the Hellam Township amended its zoning ordinance to allow dwellings with less than 699 sq ft floor area.

Rules based on the type of tiny house in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's cities and counties’ laws favor permanent tiny houses with more than 70 sq ft floor area. A mobile tiny house faces strict rules regarding where to park and whether you can use it as a permanent dwelling. 

Nonetheless, you can still live in a temporary or permanent tiny house in specific locations in the State.

Rules for permanent structures

Galician Tiny House on Foundation
View the Galician Tiny House on Foundation

Tiny homes built on a permanent foundation in Pennsylvania are subject to the same rules and regulations as other residential properties. This includes zoning ordinances, building codes, and energy efficiency requirements. 

If you buy a tiny house on a foundation and it’s considered a traditional dwelling, then the State's residential code applies. It sets minimum standards for building habitable spaces, including planning the building and constructing the foundation, walls, roof, HVAC, and all other construction aspects. 

Pennsylvania’s residential code sets minimum requirements to protect public health and general welfare through stability, structural strength, light and ventilation, and more.  

For example, except for the kitchens, habitable rooms must have at least 70 sq ft (6.5 m2) of floor area and be at least 7 feet (2.13 m) in any horizontal dimension. 

If you construct a tiny house in Pennsylvania, you should abide by the Building Code 2018 Of Pennsylvania, which also protects public health and safety. 

Contact your local building department before starting construction on a tiny home in Pennsylvania. The building officials will be able to provide you with the most up-to-date information regarding tiny home regulations and requirements in your area.

Rules for transitional structures

Salamandre Tiny House on Wheels
View The Salamandre Tiny House on Wheels

Tiny homes on wheels are considered recreational vehicles in Pennsylvania, so they should abide by the 2018 Board of Vehicle Act 134. This code outlines the standards for registration, titling, safety inspections and certification of weight, size, and other requirements. 

Additionally, when parking a tiny house on wheels in Pennsylvania, you must check with your local government for any applicable zoning ordinances. 

Some local governments prohibit parking tiny homes on wheels due to size, length, or other considerations. Others allow parking in mobile home parks.

What Pennsylvania counties allow tiny houses?

When it comes to tiny homes in Pennsylvania, all roads lead to Lancaster County. It is the most tiny-home-friendly county in Pennsylvania. 

Lancaster also has a vibrant tiny home community (Tiny Estates) in Elizabethtown. Besides Lancaster, Philadelphia City also allows permanent tiny houses.

Some Pennsylvania counties allow living in a tiny house only if you place it on a foundation or other approved permanent locations, such as an RV park. 

At the same time, other counties don’t permit tiny homes and accessory dwelling units. So it’s best to check with the local authorities before beginning your tiny home project. 

How tiny can a house be in Pennsylvania?

Acorn Tiny House on Wheels
View the Acorn Tiny House on Wheels

Generally, a tiny house must have a 70 square feet minimum floor area and 7 ft horizontal dimensions to meet the Pennsylvania building code. But the exact size requirements may vary based on the specific location's zoning laws.

Additionally, some locations may require that the home meets certain design criteria, such as being on a permanent foundation, having an adequate sewer system, and other utilities. 

Check with your local officials for precise information.

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

If your tiny house is considered real estate, you will be responsible for applicable property taxes. Check with local officials to determine whether or not your tiny house qualifies as real estate in Pennsylvania. 

Some counties may require that the home sits on a permanent foundation to qualify as real estate and thus be subject to property taxes. 

Additionally, some counties may have additional criteria that must be met for the tiny house to qualify as real estate. 

It is important to consult local officials for more information about the applicable rules and regulations.

Where can I park a tiny home in Pennsylvania? 

Besides the Tiny Estates community in Elizabethtown, the best places to park tiny homes in Pennsylvania are rural areas. Many counties in Pennsylvania have rules and regulations that govern the placement of tiny homes. So check with local officials.

Generally, you must place your tiny homes on your own property or leased property. 

You can also put a tiny house in your backyard in Pennsylvania as long as it meets zoning regulations and other local requirements. 

As for tiny houses on wheels, you can park them in mobile home parks.

Tiny home communities in Pennsylvania

If you want to live permanently in a tiny home, Tiny Estates is the best location. You can bring your tiny house on wheels and participate in their numerous community events, including holiday parties, festivals, game nights, and movie screenings.

Tiny Estates was established in 2018 in Elizabethtown. The tiny home community is close to both Hershey and Harrisburg by car. 

The gated community features two ponds, a common area with picnic tables, fire pits, and nearly 60 lots, earning a reputation as one of the largest tiny home communities in the US. 

There are no minimum square footage or RV certification requirements in the community. And they permit pets.

There are other tiny house communities close to Pennsylvania. For example, Boiceville Cottages in Brooktondale, New York, and Cedar Springs Tiny Village in Ohio.

Takeaway: Know the key tiny house laws in Pennsylvania

Generally, permanent tiny houses abide by the same residential and building codes as other residential properties in Pennsylvania. All rooms (except kitchens) must have at least 70 sq ft floor area and be at least 7 ft in any horizontal dimension. 

The house must also have essential utilities, waste disposal, and all other aspects of typical residential structures. In contrast, tiny houses on wheels abide by the laws that govern recreational vehicles.

However, Pennsylvania has no explicit tiny house regulations. In addition, various counties and cities freely amend the State code to accommodate the public's needs. 

So you'll need to check your location's zoning ordinances to determine the laws that bind your tiny home project.

It's best to start checking regulations at the lowest level, then work your way up. In any case, you'll have to comply with all regulations. Plus, it's the local officials who enforce the regulations, so start there.

Are you considering relocating to a tiny house in Pennsylvania for a job? Check out our handpicked tiny house kits that you can easily assemble to create the indoor space you desire.

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