Living legally in a Tiny House is a hard subject to talk about because it’s going to be different depending on where you live. Unfortunately, we can’t look up the information for everywhere in Canada, but we are going to focus on New Brunswick, specifically the South-Eastern area, and we encourage you to contact your local city building advisor, or your Regional Service Commission office if you live outside the city.
Ask the hard questions
I know it’s hard and scary to ask certain questions about Tiny Houses and by-laws that might affect where and how you can live, but it’s really important to do it. You might be really surprised about the answers – we sure were! Turns out that it’s legal to have a Tiny House within the city limits here in Moncton, as well as in Riverview. But when we contacted the Southeast Regional Commission, they told us that the legal minimum size for a full-time home is 485 square feet, which means technically, it is not legal to live in a Tiny House year round in the areas that they govern (if there’s no mayor, they are in charge).
Always be honest
I was really nervous about contacting people to talk about by-laws concerning Tiny Houses, but I knew that being honest was the right way to go about it. You’re not doing anything illegal by asking questions or by showing interest. Sometimes it’s even helpful because those people making building code by-laws might not have been aware that there was a interest for people to be living in such small spaces. Nothing is ever going to change if we don’t talk about it.
Double-check the “facts”
I don’t know why, but I had this weird feeling when I first got an answer for the Southeast Regional Commission. I felt like they didn’t really know what I meant or weren’t familiar with the bylaws so they weren’t really able to answer any of my questions properly.
I waited a few days and tried calling again. Funny thing happened, I actually ended up speaking to a total of 3 different people, and I got different feedback from each individual. The last person I spoke to was very helpful and was obviously looking to answer my questions as best as he possibly could. He told me that the National Building Code of Canada insists that a home may not be a permanent residence if it does not meet the minimum size requirements. (I still need to find a copy of this and see if this is actually true) He specified that you can live in a building that is smaller than 485 square feet, but only seasonally.
I then asked if he knew what the consequences might be if one chose to live in one full time, and if you could get a fine or kicked off your land. He proceeded to tell me that it would probably never happen, because it is highly unlikely that someone would go out of their way to find proof that you live there year round, and then even more unlikely that the police would go to all the trouble of finding you, knocking on your door, and asking you if you live there full time. And in which case, simply put, he told me that I had no obligation to admit whether or not your Tiny House was your permanent dwelling.
We can help others by educating them. Without education and open dialogue, we can’t expect cities, towns or regional commissions to understand or be willing to make changes to accept Tiny Houses. So I think it’s our responsibility to take action and try to create change by talking about it, sharing posts and articles, and being an active member of the Tiny House Community to keep it current and relevant.
If all this is something that interests you, then you need to check out this 3 Part Documentary from Tiny House Expedition called Living Tiny Legally.
Here are also some other links, none of which I think are really that helpful, but maybe one day:
Unfortunately, we aren’t nearly as far along as they are in the states, where they have the American Tiny House Association working on changing and creating by-laws to allow people to live more a sustainable and minimalist lifestyle.