Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Tiny Homes

Here’s What you Need to Know

In the past few years, “accessory dwelling units” and “ADUs” have been key buzz terms among homeowners and future homeowners.  But what exactly are ADUs, and are they the same thing as tiny homes?  Read along as we try to explain some of the fundamentals:

What is a Tiny Home?

A tiny home is exactly what it sounds like.  By definition, they’re typically 400 square feet or less.  They’re often mobile like the tiny homes on wheels that we sell but tiny homes can also come on fixed foundations.  Tiny homes have everything you’d find in a regular house, often at a fraction of the cost.  They’re a more affordable, eco-friendly alternative to buying a traditional custom-built house.

Are Tiny Homes Legal?

Yes! Many cities and states have passed laws to accept tiny homes on wheels as accessory dwelling units (ADUs).  Exact rules vary from community to community but commonly local jurisdictions require that if you want to park in a backyard you’ll need to park your tiny at least 10 feet away from the main house on packed gravel or concrete.  Some counties that don’t normally permit backyard ADUs have exemptions for elder care, making tinies a good in-law suite or retiree option.  Since our tiny homes are RVIA certified, they can also be parked in most RV parks across America.

What is an ADU?

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are secondary units separate from the primary dwelling unit.  They can be detached units or they can be a separate unit, like a basement apartment, within a larger structure.  They are often defined in local zoning and building codes as units that have their own kitchen, bathroom and sleeping space.

So What’s the Difference Between Tiny Homes and ADUs?

Some tiny homes are ADUs and some ADUs are tiny homes depending on how the structures are built and utilized.  But, why would you care?  Because different local building and zoning codes will apply to your home, depending on the way you want to use your home and where you want to locate it.

Will your home be in a backyard or an RV park? If your tiny home is going to be parked in your backyard then it is probably going to be subject to your city’s zoning and building requirements for ADUs.  If your home is going to be parked in an RV park then it is probably going to be subject to the building codes and zoning rules that govern RV parks, but not ADUs.  Will it be located in California?  Different states have different rules.  We know these questions can be challenging and that you will need to check the local rules in your chosen community.  To help provide assurance that our tinies meet local requirements for design and safety, all of our tinies are certified by PacWest for compliance with ANSI (American National Standards Institute) A119.2 and A119.5 for recreational vehicles and park model recreational vehicles.

Are the Wheels Necessary?

The wheels on your tiny home are not always necessary, but they can be a good thing.  Many communities restrict backyard ADUs to tiny homes on wheels, so having a house on wheels gives you more options.  Additionally, tiny homes on wheels are generally taxed like a vehicle and are not subject to additional real estate property tax. But, of course, you will need to confirm the rules in your community.

What About ADUs in California?

California has been a national leader in requiring local communities to develop plans to promote the creation of ADUs that can be offered at affordable rent.

We build all of our certified tiny homes in our facility near Palm Springs, California.  You can make an appointment to visit and see our process, look at our homes, and ask us questions in person.  We’re within a few hours from multiple major legal tiny home cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose, just to name a few.

What About ADUs in Other Parts of America?

More and more parts of America are adopting ordinances to accommodate ADUs. The exact regulations vary and of course you will want to seek professional advice regarding your own community’s rules.  However, we do provide helpful resources on our site.  We deliver everywhere in America, even Hawaii.

Tiny homes and ADUs are a new and growing in popularity.  We hope we’ve addressed your questions but as always, feel free to contact us.

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The information contained in this article and on our website is provided for information only and should not be construed as legal advice. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this article or on our website without seeking legal or other professional advice.