Tiny Houses – Tiny Legal Issues?

The Tiny House movement is gaining popularity in Australia with more people embracing minimalism and seeking stylish and affordable accommodation with a smaller carbon footprint.  Despite their growing popularity, the exact position under the law is uncertain, and will depend on the individual specifications of a proposed Tiny House and its relevant Council area. Before you rush off to buy your own tiny home, we outline some things to consider.

Is it the main attraction?

  • If your tiny house is going to be the main building on your block of land, you should be aware of the relevant Council’s Development Plan and the regulations governing building requirements like minimum size regulations. However, if it is going to be in the backyard behind the main dwelling, it may instead be considered an ancillary dwelling or outbuilding, or may fit the definition of dependent accommodation (similar to a granny flat), which will fall under different regulations.
  • In the case of an outbuilding, Section 3 of Schedule 1A of the Development Regulations 2008 (SA) goes in to more detail, but essentially, there are some maximum size requirements and ‘human activity’ must be secondary. That is, an outbuilding is probably more suited to a shed or studio than your tiny house.

A wheely good idea?

  • If your Tiny House has wheels, it may likely be considered a light trailer or caravan under the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (Cth). This legislation governs the initial manufacture, and the ongoing regulation becomes the responsibility of the State Government. A tiny house with wheels must meet the national design and performance standards under the Australian Design Rules, or alternatively the construction requirements set out in the Vehicle Standards Bulletin VSB1.

Other Standards to Consider

  • The Housing Improvement Act 2016 (SA) and the Housing Improvement Regulations 2017 (SA) set out the minimum standards for residential premises to be considered safe and suitable for human habitation, which may apply depending on the circumstances of your Tiny House. This is particularly important if you are considering renting your Tiny House out to a tenant. For instance, the regulations require space and water supply outlets for a washing machine, and an oven and cooktop.

If you see a tiny house on your horizon, please take the time to become familiar with your council’s regulations and seek legal advice if necessary. Our team at Clelands Lawyers Adelaide will be happy to help.

Shannon McMenamin

31 August 2017