Based on Code - Can you build a Tiny Home to rent on Airbnb

23 Replies

Im looking at the code and the legality of tiny homes.

You dont need a permit to build a one-story detached accessory buildings used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the gross floor area does not exceed a set amount of square feet, the plate height does not exceed a set feet in height above the grade plane at any point, and the maximum roof projection does not exceed certain amount of inches.

If I built my Tiny home which did not require permits to observe the additional rules of Title 11 of the health homes code including the relevant cubic feed of air in the sleeping area, can I rent the home out?

If not how can I get a tiny home used for rental purposes. Is it simply a case of apply for a permit where ordinarily one would not have been needed?

Thank you in advance

I am not sure where you live but it seems this code is written to address non dwelling structures. You trying to rent it would most likely put you in violation of code. What exactly are you trying to avoid or accomplish?

Is there a market for people who want to sleep in sheds? I guess it's better than the streets, but homeless people aren't using airbnb.com 

Kenneth im trying to avoid grading due to contours of my land so I designed a Tiny home to sit on a raised foundation. Spoke to my contractor he says minimum is 500sf in LA. Bryan I have not designed a shed. I never understand it when someone has nothing to contribute they feel a witty comment can help.

@Annunciata R.

If you are trying to just avoid grading the size of the dwelling is not going to really matter. It still will need footings and proper structure as a dwelling and even if you were able to somehow get buy code inspection you would open yourself up on the liability side because it was not verified for code. How expensive is the grading and excavation of the lot. Some creative things can be done with the building to minimize the dirt that has to be moved around. In my opinion you are risking a lot

Tiny homes are a growing trend, and there are plenty of people who would rather stay in a cozy private space on a piece of land than in a hotel. A hotel room is not necessarily very large either.

When traveling in El Salvador a few months ago I chose to stay in an airy but cozy, and very simply-built house near the ocean rather than an in a 'real building' in the town. YMMV

@Annunciata R.  , I might suggest you contact some KOA's around your region, and talk to the owners about code around the construction of their Camping Cabins. There may be different rules there because of their campground designation, but those are along the lines of the structure you're proposing, if I understand you correctly.

Cheers for thinking outside of the (big) box

The code you're reading applies to sheds, not dwelling units.  So, yes, you are building a shed.  Codes for habitable structures are much more complex.  You absolutely will have to have permits to build a structure people are going to live in.  Even if its just for a night.

Jon Holdman, Flying Phoenix LLC

Thank you @Jeff Blanchard yes you have understood me correctly. Good to find someone else thinking out of the box , please can you confirm what "KOA" actually stands for. Thanks again

If it's going to be living space it can't be built as a "shed."  You won't be able to have a kitchen or bath in your shed or out building.  If it's going to be living space then it has to meet the standards and building code of finished living space and be permitted.  You will also need permits if you want to install electric into your shed, I don't know of anywhere where you can add new electrical service without a building permit.  

Good luck getting it up to code, but it can be very profitable (at least here in NYC). I know of one listing where they just parked an RV in their driveway and I think they get $75 a night. As far as the tiny house Idea, why not get one of the ones that are on a trailer and park it behind your house. If the code board comes knocking, just move it.

I've recently read a few article about tiny homes.  I no longer have the link, but I recall one where they used an "organic" toilet, so there were no sewer hook-ups.  Cannot recall what they did for electricity.  There seems to be a lot of creativity in creating these tiny self sufficient homes.

Im very amazed at the take on Tiny homes. It must be just me. Lets look at this a different way.

Assuming I was to buy someone else's "shed". Like the one up for sale at $1.795M. Assuming no permits were required to build this "shed", if I purchased it (regardless of whether it was a composting loo or hooked up to sewer, regardless of whether it was solar powered or hooked up to the grid) Could I rent my shed out, which didn't require permits to build, how could I get my $1.795M shed legal for sleeping purposes. I am aware of people living in all sorts of outbuildings but I just want to know what I need to get my shed to now be permitted to rent on airbnb

@Annunciata R.

I think in the end if you want someone to dwell inside it ever, legally, you will need to have it permitted or the person you purchased it from would need to. Unless you put it in the middle of nowhere it will need to be permitted. The size of it is not the issue. The building code is meant to make sure dwellings are safe. I also think if you have a piece of property that it makes sense from a highest and best use then so be it, but if it is this difficult to make it work on this parcel that is probably not the case.My 2 cents......

You're getting too hung up on avoiding permits and planning.  If you want to have a space that is used for people living in, either permanently or temporarily, just work the process, get permits and do it legally.  This can be a painful process, but skipping it and hoping to not get caught is even worse.  I've been there with a loan to a rehabber who skipped some of his permits and was the one holding the bag (and spending the money) to get it fixed.

Jon Holdman, Flying Phoenix LLC

I've stayed in AirBnB rentals a fair amount, including backyard guest cabins. My favorite was a vintage Airstream trailer. The numbers made a lot of sense if you like the hospitality business.

On the contrary Jon Holman, I am not hung up on avoiding permits. If I was, I would ask Kenneth on more details on how something being in the middle of nowhere provides the exception to getting permits. Another issue I face is a Tiny home probably falls below the minimum size dwelling allowed.

The Los Angeles Architects office I spoke to last week suggested there were ways round this and that people were putting in permit application for a large building along with an assessory building. Erect the assessory building first and return to building safety and say they had ran out of money and could not build the main building. I am simply not sure if that is the route I would want to follow to ensure my structure is permitted from the onset.

@Jon Klaus hospitality is something I am now seriously considering. Luke the trailer option is certainly there as a last resort but I am hoping for a permanent foundation. Sorry about not tagging everyone.

These are photos of my Architects structure. I really dont think they would have built it without permits if they new that they could pull the permits for it. My guess is that a change of use permit from shed/out building would be required. https://www.flickr.com/photos/armoryarts/7782554978/in/set-72157631054153848/

Is it not possible for you to go to the permit department and discuss your idea with them? If they absolutely reject the idea now without the permit process, my guess is they would give you even more grief once it is built.

HI I am new here but am intrigued by tiny homes and their possibilities.

Fwiw, I now live full time in my fifth wheel camper and am amazed at how many people are drawn to this lifestyle. I live and work from here, and am parked for months at a time.

If you can provide rv hookups to septic and power that may be an easier way to get started.

I think you have an excellent idea and I wish you the very best of luck.

@Margo I do prefer to liaise with city officials myself but I was drawn to this architect when exploring steel construction techniques. I thought I would get their opinion of my design only to find that Tiny homes dont appear to be permitted structures.

Hopefully this will soon change as there is already a small lot subdivision ordinance that allows homes in the city of Los Angeles to be built on a lot as small as 600sf although this applies to R3 and not R1 zoned lots.

With 4 or 5 contiguous R1 lots in Hollywood Hills that cover approximately 1 acre and the new hillside ordinance already significantly reducing the size of a building that can be built on them I figured one way to go would be to cut the building size right down to a Tiny Home and start getting immediate returns on my property.

I was hoping the post would reach persons who have had their Tiny home designed permitted and built but seems like most are not sitting on permanent foundations. @Susan Vita good to see you are enjoying your tiny living space.

"Erect the assessory building first and return to building safety and say they had ran out of money and could not build the main building."

I attempted this in Denver, and they wouldn't let me get started.  Apparently they've been burned before.

I'm no expert, but have watched the shows and seen some articles. All of the ones I've seen are built on trailers, probably for this exact reason.