Due to the fact that I have a tiny house and I am so far the only tiny houser in the area who writes about the experience, I have a lot of people writing to me to ask if they can legally live in the tiny house that they dream of building. The honest answer is that I have very little idea.
The problem is, the question is not a simple one. The Canadian Building Code is used as a guideline by all municipalities in Ontario (as far as I know); however, each community can amend these guidelines to fit their own vision of a community.
On Undeveloped land:
Most communities will not allow an RV to be parked there and a tiny house will fit into the same category. So far I have not learned of any areas that allow you to live on wheels on land, whether you own it or not. You can get a permit to live in an RV short term while you are building a house and as far as I know this is the only time you can live in an RV, unless you are in a licensed RV park.
You can typically build a structure on undeveloped land but this is variable depending on your area. You must check yourself with your building inspector. In the case of the area that I live, I am allowed to have a building with a footprint of 108 square feet (many are 100 square feet, I know of one area that has 120 square feet and I am sure that there are other sizes outlined too). The said structure can be no higher than 15 feet which is a gift because this allows me to have a half floor loft. I cannot live there but I can visit it as much as I like. This said without a permit to reside there, my house may well be at risk when new administration or inspectors come on the scene.
On Developed land (land with a house):
You are allowed to park a house on wheels on your own property in most areas but not all. This is why you often see RV’s at storage facilities. You cannot live in an RV beside someone’s house as far as I am aware. The only exceptions are are some communities which allow you to have a garden house which is livable as long as it is movable. There are some communities North of Toronto that welcome movable garden houses. The hitch here is that you must put expensive infrastructure in place. With the exception of the ones that exist already and these movable garden houses, most communities in Ontario strictly prohibit 2 families on one lot.
So far I have never heard of any communities which allow garden houses to be built in back yards but I suspect as our population climbs and cities become denser, this will change.
In short, I can’t really answer this question for you. The answers are very specific to your area and your building inspector. I suggest that anyone who is wants to know call their building inspector. This is their job to know the answers, so don’t feel that you are wasting their time.
If anyone knows specific rules for their city and county please leave this information in the comments section.
I will amend this article as information becomes available or known to me.
Amendment #1: Unorganized Townships:
Barbara Sheridan writes: “If you live in an unorganized township they follow canadian building code not a municipal code (since there is no organized municipality). The Canadian code does not set out building size requirements.” What this means is that you can build a tiny house here, as long as it meets building code. Be aware ladders to the loft do not meet code so you have to make room for stairs that are up to code if you want a second floor.
There are some recent changes in BC that have been reported in the media. Smaller homes are part of the solution to the overpriced housing market. Smaller homes are cheaper and if allowed would open up home ownership to those that otherwise couldn’t afford to own their own home.
Google smaller homes…I wish I had book marked the article.
I understand that tiny homes fall under the category of recreational vehicles. But if you wanted to build a tiny home that didn’t have wheels, could you still build it on undeveloped land? That way it’s a permanent structure. It loses the romanticism of being able to pick up and go traveling as you wish, but I’m wondering if this might be the only way to live tiny in Ontario.