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What’s the actual legislation around living in a Tiny House on Wheels in Australia?

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Without a doubt, this is my most frequently asked question.

I’ve hesitated discussing it publicly for a few different reasons, but mostly because honestly, I just don’t have time for negativity. You’re either part of the solution, or you’re part of the problem. I focus my energy on the former.

So. What ARE the rules?

For those who like to play by them- here it is.

Right now, NSW is the only state in Australia where you are “permitted” under law to reside long-term in a Tiny House on Wheels.

This comes with a few stipulations though:

* There must be an existing approved primary dwelling on the property

* You must be a “contributing member of the household”

* It is for a maximum of two years

If you are paying rent to the land owner, I don’t think anyone can argue that you are “contributing”.

What about the term “household”?

This is where it gets interesting.

NOWHERE does it state you must be a blood relative or family member.

For Census purposes (undertaken by the Australian government), you are required to include anyone who is a member of your household on the specified Census night. Their documents describe this as any person who sleeps at that address on that night. This includes guests if you rent part of your home on Airbnb, for example.

Renting a spot in your backyard for someone in a Tiny House or caravan is effectively the same thing, right?

In all other states of Australia, right now there is no specific legislation relevant to Tiny Houses on Wheels. Councils assume they fall under caravan legislation. However if you’ve ever set foot in a Tiny House, you can appreciate that there is just no comparison between a Tiny House and a caravan.

Tiny Houses are built with traditional building materials and to a standard similar to a traditional home built. They are intended for permanent living, and are designed and fitted out accordingly. They are not intended for full-time travel.

Caravans are the polar opposite. They are built with purpose-made lightweight materials. They are designed and weighted specifically for travel. Their only similarity with Tiny Houses is the wheels.

One could argue that Tiny Houses do not in fact fit within current caravan guidelines due to their construction. But I digress.

Most councils will tell you in writing that you are not permitted to live in your Tiny House (aka caravan) for more than a specified number of nights per year. This varies by council but is generally somewhere between 30-60 nights per year.

In person and "off the record" however, can be a different story. From my own experiences and those of people I’ve spoken to, most councils are rather ambivalent about us Tiny Housers right now.

Many are sitting back to see what comes of it all. In the meantime, most will tell you that they’re not really interested in you unless you’re blatantly doing the wrong thing- by polluting waterways, causing a nuisance or pissing off your neighbours.

It’s the latter that causes the bulk of the problems. We encourage both our hosts and members to be “good neighbours”.

It’s a good idea to let your neighbours know of your plans ahead of time. See if they have any concerns, answers the questions they’ll probably have. Site a Tiny House far enough away from the neighbours that any daily noise or comings and going’s aren’t likely to be an issue.

In most cases, councils will only intervene and ask you as a Tiny Houser to move on where a neighbour makes a formal complaint to them. They are required by their policy to follow up on complaints and take action to mediate or rectify the situation. Some councils will just issue you a 28 day notice to remove the Tiny House. Others might ask you to work with them to ensure any waste or grey water are adequately treated and managed.

If this does happen- it’s often not the end of the world. I know many people who have informal permission of their council to live quietly in their Tiny House, so long as no one rocks the boat. This is my own personal situation where I live in Victoria.

The key here is be as considerate and accomodating as possible so that no one has reason to complain.

This is why we undertake a risk assessment for every single Host Application submitted to us.

Sure, there are some councils and properties that we would consider to be too great a risk of causing a nuisance. And it’s in no-one’s best interests to take that risk, when the outcome would be that the Tiny Houser may have to spend a great deal of money having a tow truck move their home (not to mention the stress of finding a new place in under a month).

I feel it’s important to note here, that at this time there are no penalties imposed on property owners for engaging in a hosting arrangement like this. The worst case scenario is that council may issue an order for the Tiny House to be removed within 28 days. If it were truly “illegal” as such, there would be a specific law addressing this, that would have a prescribed penalty. This doesn’t exist.

Having said that- I’m fully aware that our platform is NOT for everyone.

It’s not a black and white issue, and there are lots of people who aren’t comfortable dabbling in the grey area. If you’re someone who likes to “check all the boxes”, and would be kept awake at night worrying about getting a knock on the door- then I’d suggest that hosting or living in a Tiny House might not be for you at this point in time.

However, in the past 12 months especially, the housing crisis has escalated to the point that many people would actually be at high risk of homelessness were Tiny House living not an option for them.

This is why I'm so passionate about what I do.

Mortgage stress is also on the rise.

The majority of our hosts tell us they will be using their hosting income to help meet their mortgage payments.

When we can help homeowners stay in their homes, while providing a secure housing option for people who may have limited options- why wouldn’t we?

There are people who say I shouldn’t be offering this service, that it is “illegal” to live in a Tiny House (which I’m pretty sure I debunked above).

To those people I say- check your privilege.

Many of us simply don’t have the luxury of waiting for that big rubber stamp or official tick of approval. I am one of them. As a single mum of two kids on a low income, the reality is that if I were forced out of my Tiny House, there’s no way I could afford rent on a traditional home. I’d be facing homelessness again. That’s the whole reason I went Tiny to begin with.

Change is never initiated by government- but by pressure applied and exposure caused by members of the public. It’s me- I’m members of the public 😅 #takingonefortheteam

ParkMyTinyHouse is my opportunity to not only give visibility to this issue, but also help people into secure housing.

I have other plans for pursuing this mission longer term, but right now this is my primary focus.

Who’s with me?


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