Where Can I Put a Tiny House and What Will It Cost?

Where Can I Put a Tiny House and What Will It Cost?

If you are looking for land to build on, or planning to build on land you or your family already own, you need to be sure of the zoning. Even if you checked before, make sure that the zoning hasn’t changed.

There are also costs to have water and sewer. It adds up.

These are the rules that apply where we live. The rules where you live are probably similar. Rules change. So, even if you checked before, see what the current rules are.

Henderson County Zoning

This is the current zoning for Henderson County, where I live. It has changed since we bought our land.

Tiny houses by the lake in Fårö
Very Dense Housing
Photo by Jon Flobrant

Residential Density

Density means the number of houses allowed per acre. Standard is 4. That means each house should have a quarter acre lot. Intermediate is 6 and Maximum is 12.

If even 10% of the land has a slope of 60 percent or more, you can only have 2 houses per acre where it is zoned for Standard density, 3 houses for Intermediate and 6 houses where it is zoned for Maximum density.

How do you get Intermediate or Maximum density, to be able to put more houses?

Intermediate residential density shall be available when individual dwellings would be served by both: (1) a municipal water supply system and (2) a sewage disposal system (of the following types: municipal, approved public, or approved community) which meet the requirements of applicable local or state authorities having jurisdiction thereof.

Maximum residential density shall be available to applicants proposing multifamily developments with three (3) or more units (specifically excluding single-family units) where:

  1. A total of at least five (5) units would be permitted by standard residential density, and
  2. Such dwellings shall be served by both: (1) a municipal water supply system and (2) a sewage disposal system (of the following types: municipal, approved public, or approved community) which meet the requirements of the local or State authorities.
This house near me has a front setback of 15-feet. The sides setbacks are 10-feet.


Setbacks or Yard Setbacks means how close a house (no matter what size) can come to the edges of the lot.

The front setbacks vary depending on what kind of public road reaches the home. The house can be built no closer than 15-feet from a local road and 20-feet from a collector road. A collector road is a road that a lot of other roads connect to. It is often wider and sometimes has a faster speed limit. A good way to tell is by the stop signs. You usually have to stop before pulling onto a collector road.

A thoroughfare is even busier. You have to be back 35-feet if you really want to build a residence off a thoroughfare. A boulevard has more lanes or is divided. The setback for a boulevard is 50-feet.

The side and back setbacks are 10-feet. The house has to be 10-feet away from the property line.

Two sheds close to the property line
Photo by Richard Dorrell

Accessory Structures Setbacks

An accessory structure is a building you don’t live in. A shed or workshop can be closer to the property line. It only has to be 5-feet from the back and sides and 10-feet from the front.

Other Residential District Zoning

This is why it is important to find out what your zoning is before buy land or start a project. R2 (Residential District Two) and R2R (Residential District Two Rural) zones only allows you to have one or two houses per acre.  R3 (Residential District Three) requires an acre and a half per house. R4 (Residential District Four) requires five acres per house.  The setbacks are the same.

There are also Estate Residential Districts (R-40). They require 40,000 square feet per dwelling. An acre is 43,560. The building has to be 60 to 75-feet from the center of the road near it and 35-feet from the edge of the property.

Zoning Variance

If the land you own is not large enough, you may be able to get a variance, but don’t count on it. A zoning variance is an exception, permission to not follow zoning laws. Each exception is granted on a case-by-case basis. Where we live, you may be able to get a Temporary Use Permit to care for elderly parents or other dependents.

Granny Flat Zoning Temporary Use Permit >

What Can I Build Where?

You can build a single-family home or modular home in any of the residential zoned areas.

You can put a single-wide or multi-section mobile home only on R2R, R3 and R4 zoned areas. The mobile home has to be 14-feet or more wide.

Mobile home
Photo by W Carter

Mobile Homes and Trailers

Some Tiny Houses are considered mobile homes. Some people re-purpose an old trailer into a Tiny House. These are the rules for mobile homes.

Pre-1976 Trailers in a trailer park
1974 Photo by Horacio Villalobos

The HUD Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards went into effect on June 15, 1976. Look for a red HUD-code certification label on an older trailer.  You cannot move a trailer that was built before the the standards went into effect to anywhere in this county without jumping through a lot of hoops. You may not be allowed to do it at all. Other counties near us allow it. Check your zoning before you buy something.

Manufactured Home Dwelling Age. The movement of pre-1976 manufactured homes (hereinafter “mobile homes”) into the County shall not be permitted. Pre-1976 mobile homes currently located within the County may be installed, moved or relocated provided:

The mobile home is not currently located within an MHP;

Relocation shall only be to an approved manufactured home park; and

A permit has been issued by the Zoning Administrator authorizing such installation.

Where the mobile home is set up within a manufactured home park (MHP) the mobile home may be sold and can be relocated within an existing manufactured home park.

There are other mobile home rules that apply to different homes and different neighborhoods, so check things out carefully. I’m not commenting on Manufactured Home Parks here.

Building Our New Schumacher Home: A porta-potty was delivered and we got a permit box with our address and the house plans.
Our document box with our house plans, permits, schedules and notices.

Some of the Costs

Zoning Permit

The first step is a Zoning Permit. The permit has to be issued by the municipality where the house will be, not where you live now. Fees are determined by each municipality. Here the Zoning Permit costs $50.

Watershed, Erosion and Stormwater Permits

You may need a Water Supply Watershed Protection (WSWSP) Program Permit if you are going to do anything that will “impact water bodies within the water supply watersheds.”* “A watershed is an area of land where all of the water that drains off of or flows underneath it collects to the same place (such as a river). We all live in a watershed.” ** It is possible you may have to have an erosion/sedimentation control plan.

It is remotely possible you would have to get a Watershed High-Density Development Permit if there is going to be a lot of construction that might cause runoff or maybe even if you are in an area with a lot of paving already.

There are also rules for protective practices when land is exposed during the course of construction and development. It is important to keep mud out of waterways.

It is unlikely you will need these, but the Watershed Protection permit starts at $75. The Erosion and Sedimentation Control Ordinances Fee is $30 per acre. The  NPDES Stormwater Fee is $60.

Septic Approval and Permit

You have to apply for approval from Environmental Health first. Don’t assume you will be approved. Not every piece of land can have a septic system.

If you are installing a new septic tank, you must have approval to get a septic system setup permit. If there is an existing septic tank you still need approval before you can get a setup permit.

 The VERY First Step: Septic Approval >

If you are putting your Tiny House near another house that is already on a septic tank, you need to be approved to add to the capacity.

The Septic Permit sets a capacity. Usually it is by the number of bedrooms, figuring two people per bedroom. You can’t add another bedroom. (In some cases the permit may even say you cannot add a dishwasher or garbage disposal.)

A permit for a new septic system costs $1000 here. A permit to make changes to an existing septic system costs from $75 to $200 if you are allowed to do it.

You can’t just dig your septic system yourself. You have to have a Certified Septic Installer. You can find a contractor certified for where you live by searching for the Onsite Wastewater Contractor Inspector Certification Board for where you live. Here a Certified Septic Installer costs from $3,600 to $10,000.

Well Permit

You also need to find out about water. Is there a community well you can share? If not, it can be expensive to have your own well drilled. It depends on how far they have to drill to get to water. My research finds people paying anywhere from $163 all the way to $15,300.

You have to apply for a permit. If one is issued, a permit to drill will cost $350. If the water is going to be for drinking, the analyses for unsafe bacteria, chemicals, petroleum, pesticide and nitrates brings the fee up to $480.

We have passed inspections for Water Service, Sewer and Final Plumbing - Plumbers Return - Project Small House
Our Water Service, Sewer and Final Plumbing approval

City Sewer Hookups Fees

You don’t have to worry about a lot of this if you have city sewer available where you are. Instead, you have fees to hook up to city services.

These fees are current for where we live. Yours are probably similar.

Residential Water and Sewer Deposit depends on your credit. If you have good credit, you don’t have to make a deposit at all if you own. If you are renting, the minimum deposit is $60. If your credit is shaky, the deposit is $80 to $120. If your credit is bad or if you don’t have a credit history, you have to make a deposit of $240.

If you have your own well for water, there is a discount for sewer use only.

The tap and connection to public water is $1000. There are potentially other charges if the connection is not standard.

You have to pay to have a water meter put in if there isn’t one already available. The fee ranges from $9.45 to $143.25.


Featured image Tiny Homes Detroit, photo by Andrew Jameson