Tiny House Regulations California

California Information Bulletin on Tiny Houses/Cabins:

California Tiny House Legality Update –  ( For Further Information Contact Dan Fitzpatrick with American Tiny House Association)  Effective Date  January 1, 2020

California Building Code Update – Appendix Q Tiny Houses: In recent discussions and emails with key staff of CA Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), we have confirmed the following: 
1) HCD has adopted the provisions of Appendix Q which will make its provisions MANDATORY across all local government jurisdictions.
2) We were able to confirm with HCD, that factory-built housing (FBH) next year can be built to CA Residential Code standards, inclusive of Appendix Q, (for units 400 sq. ft. or less).
3) Such FBH units built using Appendix Q standards would be permitted anywhere is California, subject of course to zoning codes.
4) The California building code update will go into effect January 1, 2020.

BACKGROUND: For the past several months Tiny House Advocates have been quietly working with California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to ensure that provisions of the 2018 International Residential Code, including our tiny house Appendix Q code provisions, were properly implemented into the California Residential Code. Our concern was that we wanted Appendix Q code items for tiny homes to be, not only adopted by the state, but made MANDATORY in all of the 540 local government jurisdictions. In past California code update cycles, the various Appendices were left as local option.

Why is this important? One can only imagine the effort it would take to convince 540 cities and counties to adopt Appendix Q – a task which would take years to accomplish. Also, if Appendix Q provisions were not adopted across the board for all of California, it would be virtually impossible to factory build tiny house units for wide distribution.

Special Thanks to the American Tiny House Association for providing this list. These are the most recent updates for the State of California and those jurisdictions Allowing. This list is comprehensive.

  • Tiny house regulations and codes may vary by city, town, or county.
  • Most cities in California allow tiny houses as accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
  • Fresno is the first city in the country to approve tiny houses on wheels as secondary dwelling units in residential neighborhoods.
  • San Francisco is another city that now allows secondary dwelling units.
  • California Title 25 does not allow the use of a recreational vehicle to be used as a
  • dwelling unit.
  • In response to the Sonoma County wildfires, local ordinances allowed persons displaced by the fire to live in RVs or tiny houses outside the burn zones temporarily and without permits.

A tiny house friendly state, California is also one of the most popular states for nomads living in their vehicles–despite not being legal. The California Health and Safety Code defines a Recreational vehicle as a motor home, travel trailer, truck camper, or camping trailer, with or without motive power, designed for human habitation for recreational purposes. Legal or not, California continues to be popular for people who live in their camper vans. Specifics may vary by city and county, but as a whole, California appears to support living in a tiny house.

Isleton, California   ( SF Bay Area): Park Delta Bay in Isleton, CA, is an RV park that houses more than a dozen tiny houses, and more are slated to move in as space becomes available. The tiny houses aren’t co-mingled with the RV’s. Instead the cute, HGTV-style homes on wheels are lined up in a row, G Row, with outside patio sets filling the gaps in between.

City of Los Angeles, California :  12/11/2019  The Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance has been APPROVED today by the LA City Council. This ordinance permits Movable Tiny Houses as permissible and permanently habitable accessory dwelling units (ADU).
Suffice it to say that, now that the nation’s 2nd largest city recognizes Movable Tiny Homes as habitable ADU’s, it will go a long way in providing a model for other cities around the country.

San Diego, California   Will Allow Movable Tiny Homes as Accessory Dwelling Units. Final Reading and Will become law sometime in the fall.  You can find the Ordinance HERE

San Jose, California Moving to Allow Movable Tiny Homes as Accessory Dwelling Units. Final Reading in the near future and should be law by the End of May.  ( Ordinance Courtesy of Tiny Home Industry Association) You can find the drafted Ordinance HERE 

San Luis Obispo California Now allowing Tiny Houses On Wheels for Homeless Veterans

San Luis Obispo California Ordinance Information

San Mateo, California Moving to Update ADU Rules  You can find the Press Release HERE

Additional California Counties that are allowing Tiny Houses or ADUs;

Alameda County

Contra Costa County

Lake County

Mendocino County

Napa County

Sacramento County

Sonoma County

All of the above counties have approved a Caregiver Dwelling Ordinance which allows Caregivers of elderly residents to live in an ADU on the same property.

City of Ojai Effective 11/30/ 2016 Approved Backyard Cottages and/or 2nd Dwelling Unit Ordinance.

If you would like to review regulations for another state, click here