Nell Matzen - 4 Jun, 2021

What should you know about building a tiny home on your property

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With the 2020/2021 Australian property market boom, people are looking for creative ways to get into the housing market. Whether they’re taking advantage of one of the government’s stimulus measures or getting their parents to go guarantor, out of the box thinking is helping a number of Aussies into their own homes.

Some exceptionally creative Australians opt to build some very unique, budget-friendly houses – the most popular being the tiny house. Before drawing up your tiny house design, it’s important to understand the rules and regulations associated with a tiny build.

What is a tiny house?

Tiny houses are just that – tiny. They are a pint-sized house with most of the creature comforts of a larger house, cleverly packed into a much smaller space – generally the size of two 20ft shipping container stacked on top of each other. A tiny house structure is usually no taller than 4.3m and no wider than 2.5m, with the maximum length of 12.5m. Every inch of the very limited space is utilised in a tiny house, with a common layout involving a compact kitchen, living and dining area, ladder access to a bed up above, and a toilet and shower tucked away in the back.

They are a popular novelty holiday accommodation – with an Australian AirBnB type company listing over 70 tiny house properties. Small living isn’t for everyone, but as housing prices boom, budget builders have begun looking to tiny houses as a cost-effective alternative to the run mill of the property.

However, the modern movement of tiny houses was born from a conservation standpoint, with enthusiasts looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and overall impact on their natural surroundings. They are commonly self-sufficient and off the grid, utilising solar panels and tank water.

How do I build a tiny house?

You have two options when considering a tiny house – build or buy. Building a tiny house gives you more freedom for design and generally costs a lot less than buying a premade option.

If you’re worried about your ability to build a structurally sound house and don’t want to spend the money on a premade one, some companies offer tiny home kits. The clever kits include instructions, blueprints, a trailer and a list of building supplies – you just bring your tools and determination.

You can also purchase tiny house shells, which give you more freedom of choice when it comes to layout and interior design.

Click here to learn more about building a tiny house.

What are the rules and regulations you should know about when building one on your property?

It’s a common misconception that a tiny house is subjected to the same building rules and regulations as a regular house, as there are some significant differences.

Weight restrictions

If you plan to buy a premade home and move it to your property or build it permanently on wheels for more freedom, it’s vital to stick to the very specific size guide of a tiny house.

The maximum weight that can be legally towed on Australian roads is 4.5 tonne, and a structure the dimensions of those listed above is generally under this weight.

Wheels or solid foundation

Whether you choose to have your house on wheels or not depends on a number of factors but ultimately comes down to your personal preference and situation.

According to the founder of Tiny Houses Australia Group, Darren Hughes, most people opt to put their house on wheels to bypass council laws and building regulations.

“The reason people are putting them on trailers is that the moment it’s on a trailer or on wheels, it’s no longer a building, it’s not a permanent structure – therefore, building codes and permits don’t apply,” he said.

The council

Most of the restrictions that someone would encounter when building a tiny house only arise for tiny houses on wheels. For a tiny house built on a slab, the same building codes and council approvals apply as with any other structure.

According to Darren, very few councils allow tiny houses on wheels. They are viewed as caravans, and caravans are legally not allowed to be lived in full time.

“They sort of fall between the cracks, legally, and most council plannings don’t recognise tiny homes,” he said.

Because of these rules, many tiny homes are cropping up on large properties as second dwellings to lease to holidaymakers for some extra cash on the side.

But, if you’re still determined to make a tiny house your home, it’s vital to research your local council’s rules and regulations. For any questions or queries, Australia’s Tiny House Association has all the answers, including state laws and regulations and building and planning regulations.

Words by Nell Matzen


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