The tiny homes movement is sweeping across the United States as more people are switching to tiny living. Tiny living means spending less, as you pay less on utilities, property taxes, mortgages, etc.
Interestingly, Tennessee is one of the most affordable U.S. states, with no state income taxes, reasonable property taxes, and a low cost of living. Thus, Tennessee would make the perfect place for compact living. The question is whether Tennessee is tiny-home-friendly.
Tennessee has accepted the concept of tiny homes. But it does not have state-wide laws about tiny homes, so the regulations vary from place to place. However, most Tennessean municipalities adopt the IRC standards, whose requirements include that tiny homes be at least 120 sq. ft.
This guide will answer most of your questions about building and living in tiny houses in Tennessee. If you consider owning a tiny home in Tennessee, you must read this guide first.
Tennessee is tiny home friendly. However, it does not have any state-wide laws regarding tiny houses.
Just as it is in most other states, the tiny home regulations vary from city to city. So, whether it is legal or illegal to build a tiny house in Tennessee depends on where you want to put the house.
Always check with your local Tennessee authorities and the local zoning codes to know whether tiny houses are allowed. However, some Tennessee cities are known as very accepting of tiny houses, like Knoxville, Nashville, Shelby, and Monteagle.
Knoxville (in Knox county) is one Tennessean city that has fully adopted the International Residence Code (IRC) Appendix Q, which stipulates the requirements and standards for tiny houses. This means that Knoxville allows tiny houses as long as they comply with the IRC standards, including Appendix Q. The Knoxville tiny house guideline includes that a tiny house must be built on-site and on a permanent foundation.
Nashville (in Davidson county) is another Tennessean city popular for accepting tiny houses. However, Nashville has stricter tiny home restrictions. For example, Nashville defines a tiny house as a Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (DADU) and only allows them behind an existing structure. More so, they can only be on properties zoned as "multi-family" and not zoned as "single-family."
Shelby is another very friendly county as it allows tiny homes on foundations (THOF) and tiny homes on wheels (THOW). According to the Shelby county regulations, the tiny home: needs to be on a lot of at least 1 acre, should be built to local building codes, must meet state laws on sewage disposal, and must not be part of a subdivision.
Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency has recently implemented changes to promote more affordable housing. The changes, which include allowing smaller lot sizes, relaxing setback laws, and more, will make the county tiny home friendly.
Monteagle (in Franklin, Grundy, and Marion County) is another Tennessean city accepting tiny homes. The Monteagle Zoning Ordinance allows tiny houses on foundations in approved tiny house subdivisions and THOW parked in approved campgrounds. They must also meet all local standards and applicable building codes.
That said, some of the best counties in Tennessee for tiny houses are:
You can live permanently in a tiny house in Tennessee as long as the home complies with local codes and applicable building standards.
The minimum size requirement of a tiny house in Tennessee depends on whether the county or municipality adopts the building codes and zoning regulations in the International Residential Code (IRC).
For Tennessean areas that embrace the IRC (like Knoxville), a tiny home must be 400 sq. ft. or less but cannot be smaller than 120 sq. ft. For Tennessean areas that opt out of the IRC, you need to refer to the local regulations for how tiny your tiny home can be.
The IRC provides that a tiny home must:
In Tennessee, the rules and regulations for tiny houses vary from place to place. However, in each municipality, the rules differ for the different types of tiny houses - permanent, temporary, and transitional.
Generally, the rules are very flexible for permanent tiny houses (structures built on permanent foundations). Typically, permanent tiny homes would be built on foundations meeting the requirements of Chapter four (Foundations) of the IRC.
The requirements include:
In addition to the foundation meeting relevant requirements, the tiny house itself should comply with applicable local standards for tiny house construction (zoning laws, minimum size requirements, safety requirements, etc.).
If your permanent tiny house meets applicable standards, you can live in them permanently. However, choosing a permanent tiny home means you'll compromise mobility, as you cannot tow it around for the nomad lifestyle.
The rules are more restrictive for temporary tiny houses (those you can move should you want). The most popular temporary tiny houses are the tiny house on wheels (THOW).
Many municipalities see THOW as recreational vehicles and allow them only for temporary recreational use, while other cities do not allow them. For example, Shelby County allows placing mobile tiny homes on lots that meet specific requirements, while Monteagle limits them to only approved campgrounds. In contrast, Rutherford County does not allow them anywhere in the county.
The reason is that the IRC's standards for dwelling units are higher than the minimum requirements of Park Model Recreational Vehicles (PMRV).
Thus, when considering placing a tiny house on wheels anywhere in Tennessee, you should check in with the local regulations to know if these structures are allowed.
The rules are more restrictive when it comes to transitional structures and ready-removables. To protect consumers (from fire hazards), Tennessee generally does not accept ready-removable structures as legal living spaces.
For this reason, you cannot convert a shed into a tiny house in Tennessee. Sheds are allowed electricity for operating tools and machinery, not to power the place as a living space. So, even though a shed is a tiny space, you cannot use it as a tiny house.
Tennessee has many tiny house friendly counties and cities. The zoning laws vary widely, but some of the best cities to build a tiny house in Tennessee are:
The same principles of sales and use tax that apply to regular homes apply to non-moveable tiny homes on foundation (THOF). However, tiny homes on wheels (THOW) that meet the definition of a "manufactured home" are subject to half the usual sales and use tax rate.
Because the tiny home laws in Tennessee vary from place to place, you have to check the applicable local laws to know where you can park your tiny home in the volunteer state.
Some of the most common places to park a tiny home in Tennessee include:
So, it is possible to put your tiny house in your backyard. It all depends on the local zoning regulations. For example, to put a tiny house in your backyard in Nashville, your property must be zoned as "multi-family." If it is zoned as "single-family," you cannot add a tiny house.
Thanks to Tennessee’s increasingly growing status as a tiny home friendly state, tiny home communities are rapidly developing in the state.
Some of the tiny homes communities are:
Tiny Homes Estate in Thorn Hill is the first tiny homes community in Northeast Tennessee. The community is open to different types of tiny houses, including THOW, THOF, PMRV, yurts, etc.
It is animal-friendly, gated, has wide roads for easy access, and plans are ongoing to add a Community Center and a Pavilion.
Piney River Resort is an RV resort campground located on the banks of the beautiful Piney River in Bon Aqua.
Piney River Resort offers a tranquil riverfront tiny living experience and provides both short and extended stays.
It is just 50 miles from downtown Nashville and a few minutes from local shops like Johnny Cash Farm & Museum, Pinewood Kitchen & Museum, and Linita's Deli and Market.
Retreat has three tiny home communities in Tennessee - Deer Lick Falls and Sunset Bluff in Monteagle, and Water’s Edge in Tracy City.
The Retreat at Deer Lick Falls was the first tiny home community developed by Oakstone Land & Capital.
Retreat at Deer Licks Falls offers an opportunity to connect with nature without leaving the comforts of home. It is tucked in the lush forests of the mountains between Nashville and Chattanooga, giving it an abundance of hiking trails leading to the roaring waterfall.
Other amenities include Community Pavilions, a playground, firepits, and more.
The Retreat at Sunset Bluff is the third tiny home community developed by Oakstone.
This retreat provides amazing views every time you step out of your house. It is in a mountainside forest with amazing views of rolling Tennessee hills. Below the bluffs are wooded hiking trails that follow a serene flowing creek.
Amenities also include a natural rock shelter, community pavilions, a playground, and firepits, while plans are ongoing for a saltwater pool.
The Retreat at water’s Edge in Tracy City combines serene mountain woodlands with the luxury of waterfront living.
It’s full of things to experience as its amenities include a 95-acre calm water lake, hiking trails, bike & kayak stations, community pavilions, firepits, a playground, and more.
If you want to switch to tiny living and be in Tennessee, you are lucky because the Volunteer state is tiny homes friendly and has several tiny home communities.
Tennessee does not have state-wide laws about tiny homes, meaning the regulations vary across the state. So, to build and live in a tiny house in Tennessee without getting into trouble with the law, you should check local zoning codes and building standards.
If the local zoning code gives you the green light, you can go ahead to build or buy your tiny home. If you're looking for the best tiny homes in the market or for inspiration to build a unique tiny house, TinyHouse.com is the go-to source.
We'll give you expert advice that helps you stay compliant and avoid pitfalls. We'll also help you with comprehensive step-by-step plans enabling you to design beautiful tiny homes.
Ready to start reaping the benefits of tiny living? Whether you need a tiny home on foundation (THOF) or a tiny house on wheels (THOW), we'll help you design, build, decorate, and live in your tiny home. Start your consultation today!
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