16 September 2014

Tiny House rules regulations laws and legal stuff

Should a portable house comply with building code? Are there regulations for building a house on wheels? Is there a minimum size for a house? Is a transportable house a caravan? These are all questions I have been asking myself since the start of the project. I have gathered all the NZ related case studies I could find to date and tried to summarize them below so people can form there own opinion.



Kaikoura tiny house owner vs Kaikoura District Council


This case is based in Kaikoura and began as a local dispute between the owner, who claimed his unit was a vehicle, and the local council who protested that it was a building and needed consent. Its interesting to note that after the owner and the local council came to heads about whether the unit was a building or a vehicle, they called upon the services of the government to try and find some sort of resolution. It appears that the government looked into the case and the result was something that I wasn't really expecting - they viewed the unit as a vehicle and sided with the owner not with the local council.

house in question

Full report here.


Kapiti Coast District Council says his caravan is a building


Back in 2011 the Kapiti Coast District Council forced long time caravan owners to pay $600 because they deemed their caravans as buildings. Kapiti Coast District Council said a caravan is a building, which means Otaki residents had to pay up to $600 for a certificate of acceptance. Piles would need to be constructed to secure the buildings to the ground.

Read more here Dominion  and Stuff.


Thames-Coromandel District Council v Te Puru Holiday Park


Is a trailer home a "building" for the purposes of the Building Act 2004? Te Puru Holiday Park installed leisurebuilt portable units without a building consent maintaining they were vehicles. The council disagreed and the dispute then went to court.



The court said the units were not vehicles but were somewhere to live, they would be considered a house. Even though the Leisurebuilt unit could, with some modification, have been turned into a caravan or trailer. That was of minor relevance to its "as is" categorisation. The result: the units did require building consent as stated by the court.

Read articles at RV Magazine and Build Magazine 


Oakura Beach Camp, New Plymouth


In 2006 Oakura Beach camp faced similar problems with there portable houses or caravans. Some keys points.

  • The units ceased to be vehicles when they had been maneuvered into the positions in which they were to be used as buildings.
  • Permanent occupancy is when there is an intention that the occupancy will be for an indefinite period, which could in the event be comparatively short
  • Long-term occupancy is when the occupancy will be for a definite period that can properly be described as ‘long’ in the particular circumstances.

Summary report Building Performance


Using your motorhome for temporary accommodation on private property


This article has been written by James Imlach a Resource Management Planner for the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association. The use of motorhomes for temporary accommodation purposes on private property may be restricted under either the Resource Management Act 1991 or the Building Act 2004. Both these Acts operate independently and just because you comply with one it does not mean you comply with the other. The article clarifies when resource and building consents are required to legitimately undertake this activity.

Connecting three prefabricated houses together 


In this case three modular prefabricated units are joined together to create multiple rooms. Each unit measures 8m x 3m and constructed from 50mm thick colour steel clad insulated panels with a mixture of double and single glazing. The units can be towed by means of a draw bar and tandem wheels. They are resting on the wheels plus support from blocks in each corner. A kitchen with running water is present in one of the units. The units are arranged in a 'C' shape with deck joining. The units are connected by flashing strips that are screwed in place at the junctions.

A notice to fix was issued for the units to comply with the building code. Is the combined unit a vehicle? What is a building? Is the combined unit immovable? Is the unit occupied on a permanent or long-term basis? Find out here.

Small note on the US


The tiny house movement has been going strong and picking up pace in the US. Depending what state and city you are in the laws appear to generally be quite similar to NZ. However in many cities they have a minimum size a house can be which is much bigger than a tiny house. There are on the other hand some cities, counties, and states are embracing the tiny house movement. This video demonstrations the difference between heavy planning laws compared to letting people do what they feel is right.













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