Category Archives: Australia

12/01 Couple wins right to keep tiny house in backyard of larger Brisbane, Australia property

couple with baby inside of their tiny house

Inside the tiny house in the backyard of a larger Brisbane property.

In a landmark decision, the Queensland Building and Development Dispute Resolution Committee ruled tiny homes with wheels should be treated like caravans and thus do not require a building permit.

Lara Nobel and Andrew Carter were facing the prospect of having to move following a complaint from a neighbour and a decision by the Brisbane City Council that their tiny home required a building permit to stay on site.

“It’s not a fixed structure so you can’t get a building approval for it,” Ms Noble said.

The pint-sized house, measuring a compact 18 square metres of floor space, comes with a self-composting toilet and a demountable deck — all of which can be moved within a few hours as it sits on a registered trailer.

The couple built and designed their home, and have been living at their current address for about seven months.

A month ago, they were joined by baby daughter, Charli.

Mr Carter said it was a huge relief to know they could stay.

“This is one of the very few ways we can achieve home ownership anywhere near the city in a way that suits us,” he said.
ESC Consulting environmental planner Rikki Pieters, who helped the couple with their appeal, said the decision was a significant win for this type of housing model.

“If you required the tiny house on wheels to have a building permit, basically you would be attaching that dwelling to the land and you would need to go through the planning process similar to if it was a granny flat or a secondary dwelling,” she said.

Brisbane may soon change the rules

But there is still a legal hitch — in Queensland it is not always legal to live inside a caravan in a backyard.

“On the Gold Coast they prohibit it, in Moreton Bay Regional Council you can do it but there are a lot of rules that you need to follow,” Ms Peters said.

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11/18 Tiny houses on wheels allowed in Queensland, Australia backyards

screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-6-51-38-amThis week the Queensland Building and Development Dispute Resolution Committee (the Committee) established to hear the appeal against the enforcement notice issued by the Brisbane City Council (BCC) to the owners of the Tiny House on Wheels (THOW) “formed the view that the THOW does not constitute building works as defined under the Building Act and accordingly the Enforcement Notice issued by the Council should be set aside”.
What does this mean?

A little bit of history first.

Prior to installation, the THOW owners sought advice from BCC regarding the legitimacy of setting up a THOW in someone’s backyard. The advice received confirmed that living in a caravan in a backyard in Brisbane is legal provided that no public nuisance is caused and the occupant/s have appropriate access to toilet and refuse disposal facilities. The THOW was subsequently positioned at the rear of a long narrow lot with an existing dwelling in Red Hill, an inner-city suburb of Brisbane. Following a complaint from a neighbour, a council compliance officer came to inspect the THOW and determined that it would require a building permit for a Class 1A Habitable Structure (as defined in the Building Code). When the Enforcement Notice arrived from the Council, the lot owners and the THOW owners engaged ESC Consulting to lodge an appeal via the Building and Development Dispute Resolution Committee process. The grounds of appeal contended that the THOW was incorrectly classified as a Class 1A Habitable Structure because it is a road registered moveable dwelling, more specifically a ‘caravan’, in accordance with the definition under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 and the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995. The THOW should therefore not be regulated by the Building Act 1975 as it does not constitute building works.

The Committee considered all the relevant legislation including Council’s local laws but had to refer to case law in order to determine whether the THOW was a building or structure. The Committee admitted that the facts raised some difficult questions and concluded that the THOW was neither a building nor structure as there is no intention for it to become fixed to the site. The key factors included: the temporary installation of the THOW on concrete blocks for stability and levelling (i.e. the THOW was resting under its own weight); the demountable timber deck; the design for easy dismantling of the composting toilet and its drainage trench; the continued registration of the trailer and the ownership of the site and the THOW by different parties.

Where to from here?

The Committee’s decision represents the State Government’s legislative position regarding the classification of the THOW. The implication is that THOWs are not regulated by the State planning and building legislative framework and are treated like caravans. Individual councils however may have local ordinances which specifically restrict the practice of residing in a caravan on residential land.

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11/07 Tiny house challenges in Australia

Tiny house under construction

Tiny house under construction. Photo from Gumtree.

The tiny house movement refers to the architectural and social movement that advocates living simply in very small homes. There is currently no set definition of what constitutes a tiny house, however, a residential structure under 30m2 (and often they’re a lot smaller) is a widely accepted definition. Money consciousness isn’t the central reason for building or buying these homes, but rather plays a minor role in what is more accurately defined as a lifestyle change.

In some cases, people buying land for agriculture, growing their own produce and raising livestock, and parking the home on it. The tiny homes movement advocates practicing self-sustenance and living off-the-grid, away from the constraints of urban living. With the ever increasing Sydney house market, this alternative way of living has appealed to people seeking to adopt minimal, eco-friendly lives.

At age 28, Hannah Langley* is part of a small demographic of young home owners in Australia. Her hair touches her waist and she wears long skirts, a 60’s style she wears proudly.

“I’ve got everything you’ve got and in my opinion, more. I’ve got a roof, four walls, a kitchen, toilet, bed, desk, closet. And most importantly I have the world’s best backyard- which is wherever I want, really!”

Adhering to council regulations, a tiny house must be 2.4m x 4.3m x 7m at most in order to fit on a trailer and safely ride on a road.

“Council restrictions are a problem because they don’t consider the house substantial enough for a plot of land, but refuse to consider a new set of restrictions,” she said. “You’re trying to build a home, which is as worthwhile and safe as any other, yet these size restrictions and codes can get in the way.”

Hume Council sustainability city director Kelvin Walsh told the Herald Sun the council’s planning schemes had exemptions for planning approval of tiny houses, but it depended on where they were built, the zoning, and whether they are the first or second dwelling on the sight.

“Council advocates for the provision of a range of housing types to meet the diverse needs of the Hume community,” he said.

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