The Tiny house Blog

Virginia's Tiny Home Rules & Regulations

Updated on:
November 17, 2023
Virginia's Tiny Home Rules & Regulations

Tiny houses have captured people's imagination seeking a simpler and more intentional way of living. These adorable dwellings are known for their affordability, sustainability, and charm. However, if you plan on building a tiny house, you must understand the rules and regulations governing these structures.

Building a tiny house in picturesque Virginia is exciting. While the state embraces alternative housing options, there are certain rules and regulations in place that you need to navigate. Understanding and complying with these requirements ensures a smooth building process.

If you plan to build your dream house in Virginia, you must pay close attention to the state's building codes and zoning requirements. Failure to comply with the tiny house laws can jeopardize the legality of your tiny house, which is the last thing you want.

While there may be challenges, many people have successfully built and lived in tiny homes in Virginia. Educating yourself about the rules and regulations allows you to navigate the process effectively and fulfill your dream of building a tiny house in Virginia.

In this post, let’s discover the key considerations for living in a tiny home within the state, including minimum size requirements, building permits, and the necessary infrastructure for utilities.

View the modern and eco-friendly Halcon tiny home

Are tiny houses legal in Virginia?

While constructing a tiny home in Virginia is legal in most cities and counties, no state-wide law governs their legality. The local regulations vary significantly from location to location. You must understand these before starting on your project.

There are three levels of tiny house laws and regulations you need to consider if you plan to construct a tiny house in Virginia:

Building codes

The state follows International Residential Code (IRC) to govern all residential buildings' safety and construction standards, including tiny homes. 

The code specifies various aspects of a tiny home that you must follow to make it legal in the state. You will find guidelines for minimum square footage requirements, ceiling heights, and other structural considerations in the IRC.

You must ensure that your tiny home meets these requirements to make it legal in the state.

Zoning regulations

Virginia's zoning laws vary by city, county, or town and govern land use and development. Some areas may permit tiny houses as permanent dwellings, while others may only allow them as accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Some areas also have designated tiny home communities.

Researching and understanding the specific zoning regulations in your desired city, county, or locality is crucial to determine if and where you can legally place your tiny house.

Local ordinances

Local Realtor Darren Robertson told us, "Local ordinances can further influence the legality of tiny homes in Virginia. These ordinances vary widely and may impose additional restrictions or requirements on tiny house dwellers.

You should consult with local authorities and communicate openly to comply with applicable ordinances."

What kind of tiny houses are permitted in Virginia?

Virginia allows a wide variety of tiny homes, including tiny houses on wheels (THOW), backyard cottages, Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs), and stand-alone homes.  

However, some cities and counties will limit the type of tiny homes you can construct. Furthermore, local ordinances and regulations can further restrict your options.

For instance, even if THOWs are allowed, there are rules and restrictions regarding their size, parking, and duration of stay. Some areas even require minimum square footage or limit the number of days a THOW can be occupied. 

What’s more, these rules differ significantly between jurisdictions within Virginia.

We strongly advise carefully reviewing the local zoning laws to ensure your tiny house complies with them.

You can even build tiny homes on permanent foundations in Virginia. As these houses are not intended to be moved, they must comply with the same building codes and regulations as larger homes.

In such cases, the local building and zoning codes will dictate the specific requirements for construction, including minimum square footage, setbacks, and utilities.

Ala Köl blends modern simplicity with functional living

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

Your tiny house must meet certain requirements to ensure compliance with Virginia building codes. These requirements are based on its classification as a permanent, temporary, or transitional structure.

Let’s explore the regulations for each type:

Rules for permanent structures

Tiny homes categorized as permanent structures must adhere to the Virginia Residential Code and meet the requirements in Appendix Q of the IRC. Some of these requirements include:

  • You can build your Virginia tiny homes on land that is at least 320 square feet in area
  • Your tiny home must have square footage between 120 and 400 square feet
  • The minimum height of the habitable rooms must be at least 6’8”
  • Your tiny house must have one room with both a window and a closet
  • The tiny home must be built on a permanent foundation, like a concrete slab or piers. The foundation should meet local building codes' load-bearing capacity and stability requirements.
  • Your tiny house must have standard emergency escapes approved by the IRC and rescue openings.

If your tiny house meets these requirements, you must follow Virginia Residential Code to make your tiny home legal.  

View the luxurious Model C by Wolf Industries

Rules for temporary tiny houses

Temporary tiny houses like tiny houses on wheels (THOWs) are legal in the state. You can even register these homes as RVs if they are less than 400 square feet in area. Only Buckingham and Fauquier Counties have additional requirements for such dwellings:

  • The Buckingham County administration allows the THOWs only on private lands. However, the good thing is that you can rent or buy land from homeowners to park your THOWs in the county.
  • Unfortunately, Fauquier County does not allow any THOWs parked on public or private properties.

The duration you can park your THOW on private land or a designated area varies from county to county.

Check out the Draper tiny home 

Rules for transitional structures

Transitional structures qualifying as tiny houses are legal in Virginia. You can use the tiny transitional houses as ADUs, but they require connections to water, electricity, and sewage systems.

You should also remember that some jurisdictions limit the use of ADUs to specific purposes, such as housing for family members, seniors, or individuals with disabilities.

Your tiny transitional home should also have proper safety equipment like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. You must also adhere to egress requirements for emergency exits.

What Virginia counties allow tiny houses?

Most Virginia counties are tiny house-friendly and will allow you to construct your dream home. However, the rules and regulations can vary greatly. Consequently, you may have more difficulty building in one county than another.

We suggest you weigh your options carefully to make your life easy during construction.

Here is a list of the most tiny-house-friendly counties in Virginia:

  • Loudoun County: It has allowed tiny houses on wheels (THOWs) as accessory dwellings since 2019. They have specific regulations, including minimum lot size requirements, the tiny house's maximum size, and utility connections.
  • Spotsylvania County: The county allows THOWs as accessory dwellings, subject to certain regulations and permits. They require compliance with specific size limitations, foundation requirements, and utility connections.
  • Clarke County: Permits tiny houses on foundations as accessory dwellings. They have established regulations for minimum square footage, foundation type, setbacks, and utility connections.
  • Roanoke County: Allows tiny homes as accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on certain residential properties.
  • Henrico County: Permits accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on residential properties, including tiny houses.
  • Richmond City: the county has made efforts to accommodate tiny houses by allowing them as accessory dwellings (ADUs) in certain zoning districts.

We strongly suggest you consult with the planning or zoning departments of the county you are interested in to understand the current regulations and requirements for tiny homes.

Design, quality, and functionality come together in the Orchid 

Can you permanently live in a tiny house in Virginia?

Yes, permanently living in a tiny house in Virginia is possible, provided you comply with laws from the local building department. Some jurisdictions may allow tiny homes as permanent dwellings on wheels (THOWs) or foundations.  

So, research carefully before choosing a location for your tiny house in the state.

How tiny can a house be in Virginia?

For classification as a tiny house, your construction must meet a certain size requirement in Virginia. Firstly, your home must be built on at least 320 square feet of land. And secondly, your house must have an area of between 120 to 400 square feet.

You should also remember that the regulations can vary depending on your tiny house's location and its type. For instance, ADUs in most counties must be between 200 to 400 square feet to be classified as tiny homes.

Where can I build a tiny house in Virginia?

You can build your tiny house in Virginia in various locations, depending on the rules and regulations of specific counties. Here is a brief list of your options to build your dream tiny home in the state:

  • Residential zones
  • Rural or agricultural areas
  • Mobile home parks
  • Backyard ADUs
  • Cooperative communities or cohousing developments
The Verve is a great option to check out if you want to go tiny

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

You have quite a few options to park your THOW in Virginia. While you can’t park it in a public space or a business parking lot, you can park it in the following locations:

  • Some counties allow you to rent or buy a piece of land for your THOW. We advise you to check with the local administration and zoning office to learn more.  
  • Virginia also allows THOWs to be registered as RVs. So, if you can get your tiny home registered as an RV, you can park it in RV parks, campsites, or even state parks. Please consult the local ordinances before you park your tiny home on public property.

Remember that Virginia tiny house laws vary from one jurisdiction to another within Virginia and even within specific jurisdictions. So, you must ensure that you comply with the local regulations before you park your RV.

Check out the creative roofline of The Utopia

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

Building and placing a tiny home in your backyard as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is possible in some counties in Virginia. However, you must comply with Virginia tiny house laws before you start construction.

It is crucial to follow the Virginia tiny house laws closely to avoid any trouble down the line. We suggest consulting with the local planning or zoning department to ensure the legality of your construction.

Design and sophistication come together in The Margo

How much does it cost to build your own tiny house in Virginia?

The cost of building a tiny home in Virginia varies greatly depending on many factors, such as the size, level of customization, and the quality of materials used.

As you might imagine, building a tiny house in Virginia costs significantly less if you take a DIY approach. A typical tiny house in the state will cost you between $10,000 to $50,000 if you source all the materials yourself and don’t involve professionals. 

That said, for most people with little to no construction experience, we recommend hiring professionals. If you outsource your construction to pros, you are looking at $30,000 to $100,000 for constructing your tiny house. 

Are there tiny home communities in Virginia?

Virginia is a great place to build your tiny house if you want to experience community living. While you might need to research to find one, tiny home communities in the state offer a supportive and like-minded environment for individuals interested in tiny living. 

These communities often provide shared amenities, social events, and a sense of community.

Specific locations and offerings vary, so research and explore different communities to find the best fit.

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

For the most part, Virginia is a tiny house-friendly state, and it welcomes people trying to live in a minimalistic and simple house.

However, like constructing any structure, your tiny house in Virginia should comply with all the rules and regulations laid out by state officials. There are subtle changes in rules governing tiny homes in different counties.

By researching, consulting with local authorities, and working with professionals, you can navigate through these rules and construct your dream house in this beautiful state.

Now that you are ready to build your own tiny house in Virginia, you might love to read: Budgeting and Financing Your Tiny House Construction Project.

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