Category Archives: Kansas

11/15 Some tiny houses not allowed as residences in Topeka, Kansas

Example of a tiny house that does meet zoning & building code regulations in Topeka.

Example of a tiny house that does meet zoning & building code regulations in Topeka.

…In Topeka and Shawnee County, regulations require a permanent foundation for residences, effectively making living in a tiny home on wheels illegal. There are additional provisions regarding connections to sewer, water and electric utilities. In some constructions, there are minimums on the size of bathrooms and living rooms.

Richard Faulkner, division director of development services with the city, said one person approached the city and had met all the code requirements in their tiny home. However, after discovering the cost to run the water line, the project fell through.

The city is open to considering tiny houses, but it depends on how they are constructed, he said. There are different requirements for residential homes, manufactured homes and mobile homes.

Another issue is that there isn’t a set definition for tiny homes, Faulkner said.

Shawnee County planning director Barry Beagle said the viability of tiny homes depends on the owner’s intended use. For instance, permanent occupancy in an RV home isn’t allowed. A tiny home would most likely be treated as a single-family dwelling. Just as it is in the city, a permanent foundation is required.

The county has received only a couple of inquiries about tiny homes, Beagle said.

Faulkner noted that tiny homes are already present in Topeka, with a couple of hundred houses in the 500-square-foot range. Many Topeka residences that could be considered tiny homes because of their size date back to the 1950s, Faulkner said.

A list supplied by the Shawnee County Appraiser’s Office shows that 479 houses are smaller than 600 square feet. They are spread across all four quadrants of the county, but nearly 40 percent are on the southeast side. The smallest house on the list measures just 240 square feet in size and is located in northeast Topeka.

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10/15 “If it’s on wheels,” says Wichita Building Dept, “it’s considered an RV, and the answer is no.”

Kyle and Danae Schmidt's tiny house in Hillsboro, Kansas

Kyle and Danae Schmidt’s tiny house in Hillsboro, Kansas

The tiny-house movement is starting to be felt in a tiny way in Wichita. But will it – or can it – take off?

This week, the Metropolitan Area Building and Construction Department received its first question about whether a tiny house on wheels would be allowed as a residence in Wichita. If it’s on wheels, director Thomas Stolz says, it’s considered an RV, and the answer is no.

“You can’t park an RV in the backyard and live out of it for more than four days in a row,” Stolz says. The department is already receiving complaints from neighborhoods about people living in RVs because of the economy, Stolz said, and people in the RVs have to then be told about the city’s ordinance….

[But at the end of the article, some hope!] “Catherine Johnson was wise to approach the city before building, he said: “Don’t spend money on something that would be illegal in Wichita.” But that doesn’t mean her case is closed. The city will be looking into tiny houses further. “We may have to modify the code to allow them. … If they’re safe, why not?”

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Building code map

Handy map of the US. Just click on your state (in the link, not on the picture) to see which building codes are in effect:

International Code Council Map

International Code Council map

Lawrence, KS Regulations Related to Tiny Houses

State Chapter Leader Beth Cain emailed the Lawrence City Planning Office. Here are replies from Lynne Braddock Zollner, AICP Historic Resources Administrator,

For Tiny Houses built on foundations:

1. Are there regions that have no minimum size square footage for a new home?
Minimum size is based on adopted building code requirements [currently IRC 2012, so at least one room must be 120 sq ft and other rooms -except kitchen & bath- must be 50 sq ft].

2. What is the minimum size lot on which one can build a home?
The smallest single-dwelling residential district is RS3 which has a 3,000 square foot minimum lot size.

3. Which year of building code does the city enforce (2009, 2012, 2015…)?
Lawrence has adopted the 2012 IRC and ICC. Building Code Advisory Boards are currently reviewing the 2015 codes in anticipation of their adoption next year.

4. Are there any regions in which an accessory dwelling unit is allowed?
ADUs are permitted in RS7, RS10, RS20 & RS40 single-dwelling residential districts. They are not permitted in RS5 or RS3 districts.

5. Are alternative power methods (solar, small wind, propane, etc.) permissible? Solar is permitted. Small wind devices are permitted within setbacks and 35’ height limit. Propane is regulated by the IFC.

6. Are composting toilets permissible if the effluent is properly disposed of? No.

For Tiny Houses on wheels:

1. Is it allowed to live (“camp”) in a tiny house on wheels (RV) on one’s own land? On someone else’s land? If yes, is there a time limit?
Camping is not permitted in any of these situations. Camping is only allowed in an approved campground.

2. If living in a tiny house on wheels is not allowed, would it be permissible if one were to remove the wheels, secure to a pad, and add skirting, similar to a mobile home? If yes, would the tiny house need to have been built to any particular code or standard?
Currently, the Development Code permits Residential-Design Manufactured Homes on individual RS lots when constructed on a permanent foundation in accordance with standards in 20-513 (attached). If the tiny home does not meet these standards, code amendments would be required before the home could be allowed. Location of several detached homes on one lot would require approval through a base residential zoning with the Planned Development Overlay, or through the Special Use Permit process.

3. Are alternative power methods (solar, small wind, propane, etc.) permissible?
Solar and wind as noted above.

4. Are composting toilets permissible if the effluent is properly disposed of? No.

5. If permission of the owner of private property is granted, may a unit be parked on a driveway or in a side or back yard?
No, the code does not currently allow this.

Park Model RV Regulations, State-by-State

The RVIA has provided a table showing regulations by state for park model RVs

What is a park model? 

Below is a description from the RVIA:

On July 1, 2012, RVIA created a new membership category for manufacturers of park model RVs (PMRVs). A park model RV (also known as a recreational park trailer) is a trailer-type RV that is designed to provide temporary accommodation for recreation, camping or seasonal use. PMRVs are built on a single chassis, mounted on wheels and have a gross trailer area not exceeding 400 square feet in the set -up mode. They are certified by their manufacturers as complying with the ANSI A119.5 standard for recreational park trailers.

PMRVs are most often used in recreational vehicle campgrounds. They may be owned by the campground and rented to guests, or they may be brought in and used exclusively by their owners on a site rented or leased from the campground. They can also be placed by their owners on private property. These RVs are used for recreational purposes only. They are not meant to be permanently affixed to the property, they do not improve property values in any way, and they are neither designed nor intended by their manufacturers to be used as permanent residences.

Two different types of park model RVs are offered. One type is less than 8′ 6″ in width and is designed for frequent travel on the highways while the other and more popular type is wider than 8′ 6″ (usually 12′ in width), and must be transported with special movement permit. The 8′ 6″ unit typically is expandable when it reaches its destination utilizing slide-outs or tip-outs. The wider units, being less mobile, are usually sited in a resort or RV park location for an extended term, typically several years. Park model RVs are titled as vehicles by the various states. This is because PMRVs are built on permanent chassis such that they can be and are moved either within a campground or between campgrounds.

Free Online Zoning Codes

Here are two sources of online codes:

  • Municodes from the Nation’s leading legal publisher.
  • The American Legal Publishing Company provides a free online library of state and municipal codes for most locations. Click on the map to go to the library and chose your state and city. Then search or scroll for descriptions of minimum lot sizes, setback rules, etc.

    American Legal Publishing Compay online library

    American Legal Publshing Company online library

    Information is available for all states except these 13: AL, CO, ID, KS, LA, MO, MS, ND, NV, UT, VT, WA, WY.