Can a Tiny House Be Registered And Used As An RV?

Can a Tiny House Be Registered And Used As An RV?

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of tiny homes on the highway. Because they resemble recreational vehicles (RV) so much, it got me thinking. Can a tiny house be registered as an RV and be used as such?

Based on my research, most states allow registration and usage of tiny homes as an RV. The process involves someone from the regulatory board inspecting your unit. Only when your unit meets their standards can it be certified as an RV.

Many star energy tiny homes on wheels (THOWs) owners prefer to register their unit as RV for one main reason- parking. Very few establishments allow long-term parking of THOWs. On the other hand, numerous places such as RV parks and private properties allow parking of RVs.

However, one of the downsides in registering your tiny home as an RV is the total cost of the certification process. However, if you have made up your mind in doing so, here is a step-by-step guideline:

tiny house registration as RV

Can a Tiny House Be Registered as an RV Legally?

There are two legal ways to register a small house on a trailer as an RV:

1. You can apply for your mobile home inspection. An inspector from the local office of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does the evaluation.

Independent inspection are also carried out under alternative programs. These organizations can also issue tiny home to RV certificates:

● Pacific West Associates- can issue a similar certificate if your THOW met the same standards as that of a traditional RV. They can either issue an ANSI 119.5 or NFPA 1192.

●     National Organization of Alternative Housing- releases certificates stating your mobile home has met standards unique to the construction of small houses.

2.    Buying a tiny home from a manufacturer that sells units in partnership with the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) clears you with this issue. However, make sure you’re buying a fully built model and not a partially constructed one.

However, if you want to build a tiny home by yourself, inspection will be done while you build your home. Same thing when you use plans from a manufacturer to aid you in your construction efforts.

 Difference Between a Tiny House on Wheels and an RV

By legal definition, a tiny home is an RV. However, most small homes on trailers are for permanent residence. Whereas, RVs are for temporary residence.

Moreover, most RVs follow the NFPA standard 1192 and usually have certifications from its manufacturers. Meanwhile, THOWs may not have certification even though it came from a tiny home manufacturer.

The design of tiny homes on wheels and an RV are also quite different. The former is much like home including its exterior. Tiny homes also use materials for constructing traditional homes, such as wood.

Meanwhile, appliances and living amenities such as refrigerators, sinks, and beds fit into an RV. These mobile homes have a metallic shell that protects its interior. 

Can you Live in an RV or Tiny Home?

small home registered as an RV

You can live in an RV or tiny home for a few days or weeks, but not permanently. The law requires that a residential property needs to be built on a foundation.

Building codes and other structural regulations only apply to structures with a foundation built beneath it. When you are parked outside an RV park, most jurisdictions consider you to be “camping.” Hence, your tiny home may be restricted in the same way as tents.

However, there are a few loopholes that tiny home owners used to “prolong” their stay on their tiny house. In some states like Idaho, you can live a few weeks inside your parked tiny home or RV. However, you need to change spots every now and then to avoid breaking the law.

In most cases, tiny home owners eventually settle in one place for about a year or more. In exchange, they need to build a foundation beneath the tiny home for it to comply with the building code. Furthermore, they need to file the property as an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

 A Few Exceptions to the Rule

While making your RV as your permanent residence has several prohibitions, there are also few exceptions. Such as:

●     Many jurisdictions authorize full-time occupancy of an RV or a mobile home while its owner is constructing a permanent residence.

●     Several jurisdictions also allow people to live on RVs and mobile homes near a commercial site. However, it’s residence must be providing 24/7 security on an associated business.

How the Different States Deal With Tiny Homes and RVs

One of the reasons that people register their tiny home as an RV is that they want to get around the country with their dwelling in tow. Various states treat tiny homes differently especially in the issue of parking.

Some states are very considerate when it comes to building and parking tiny homes. However, there are also areas that are very restrictive of tiny homes whether they are on a foundation or on wheels.

Let’s take a look at how some states regulate small houses:


·         Small homes on wheels are considered as RVs and confined to R-5 zones.


·         Most counties here treat mobile tiny homes as an RV. They can only park on RV parks. There are a few tiny house communities such as the one near Bella Vista Lake Park.


·         Still has no one advocating for tiny home development. They are very strict when it comes to anything that could crowd residential land such as RVs and tiny houses. The state has zoning regulations that discourage anyone from building or living in a tiny home.


·         Overall, the state is quite friendly and supportive of the tiny house movement. There are plenty of RV parks and small home hotels around. However, tiny homes on wheels must have corresponding registration at a DMV in this state. Sarasota County only allows mobile tiny homes to stay in a park for less than 45 days, or it will require it to be built on a foundation.

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·         The state of Maryland has yet to acknowledge tiny homes. While they may be registered as RVs, the only places they can park are in RV parks. However, most establishments place a restriction on the number of days a unit can park in their vicinity.


·         Owning a tiny home built on a foundation is fairly easy here because you can declare it as an ADU. Camping in a tiny house parked in an RV park is also allowed, albeit only for a short period.


·         State acknowledges two types of tiny houses for zoning purposes- ADUs and RVs. Finding a place to park your unit can be tricky as regulations and code vary by town and county.

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·         State allows registration of tiny houses. But they are restricted only as RV or travel trailer and not as suitable housing.

New Hampshire

·         State has a law that allows ADUs. Owners are not required to live on site. There are 13 municipalities without zoning laws. Most of the RV parks are further up north.

New Mexico

·         Tiny homes on wheels are required to follow the same residential code standards and the ANSI codes. You can convert a THOW into a legal dwelling by obtaining a certificate of occupancy. The house must have at least 70 square feet and not less than 7 feet in length, width, and height.

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·         The state doesn’t have regulations on tiny houses yet. THOWs are generally considered as RVs. Few tiny home communities are in development like one in Wheeler District.  


·         THOWs owners need to get a special permit to build or own a tiny home. When moving the unit you need to also have a permit for a commercial hauler to move your small house. The state allows one small home or an RV to be hosted in a residential property.


·         Tiny homes are widely regulated in Texas. The town of Spur is dubbed as the first tiny house friendly municipality in America. Tiny houses on wheels are required to be tied down and their wheels removed.

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·     The state allows THOWs in an R-6 or a Manufactured Home Park zoning district. The city of Cody is one of the few exceptions as it treats small homes as RVs, but also doesn’t allow them to be used as ADUs.

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The rest of the other states generally allow tiny home owners to register their tiny home units as RVs. However, they don’t have any other specific restrictions when it comes to its design and where it can legally be parked.

tiny house on wheels

How to Apply for a Zoning Variance to Help You Out

Not all states immediately accept mobile tiny homes as RVs. Some states require that the THOWs also have specific dimensions and/or amenities like toilet, kitchen sink, and bedroom. Others require tiny home builders to follow the building code or ANSI guidelines.

However, there are a few loopholes that small home owners can use to make it legal to drive a tiny home registered as an RV. One of these methods is to apply for a variance. Once approved by the city council, it can exempt you from some provisions of the zoning laws.

You can use variance in cases when the design of the house doesn’t conform to the existing zoning laws. It is most effective when the jurisdiction you are in has unclear rules pertaining to tiny homes.

The city code is often a guideline rather than a set of rules that must strictly be followed even during exceptional cases.

Here is how you can apply for variance:

1. Choose the type of variant you want to apply.

Area variance may apply when you encounter difficulties in complying with the physical requirements of the building code. Meanwhile, use variance may allow the owner to use his property in a way that is quite different from the local zoning standards.

2. Submit a variance permit request to a building inspector or a zoning enforcement officer.

They will then decide if they will allow the variance or not. The initial application review usually takes anywhere between 2-4 months.

If it also has to undergo an environmental review, you need to wait an additional period of 6-12 months. You also have to pay a certain amount for filing the variance which is approximately $2,000 to $5,000. The fees vary depending on the state you are in.

3. If you get denied, you can still appeal to the local zoning board of appeals.

Their decision usually will depend on whether the variance can negatively impact the community or neighborhood.

4. However, once approved, property owners within a radius of 300-feet from where you plan to build your tiny home will receive a public notification.

To ensure that you have a high chance of being granted a variance, please check the existing building codes in your jurisdiction. You can also consult with an attorney or someone familiar with the housing or construction industry.

tiny house parking options

Top Places Where You Could Park an RV or Tiny Home

RV parks and nature parks are just a few of the places where you can leave your tiny mobile home (registered as an RV). Numerous establishments also encourage RVers to park in their vicinity. Below are some of these places:  

 1. Walmart

Some Walmart branches, especially in tiny home-friendly states, allow temporary RV parking. However, some stores are very specific as to what type of RVs can be allowed in their parking lots.

Take time to inquire about this arrangement with the store manager, so you will know where exactly to park. This is quite useful when you want to shop for supplies without having to leave your THOW in an RV park or tiny house community.

2. Private Property

If you’re driving cross-country you can stop by a friend’s residence and park there for a few days or nights. In some states, you can temporarily park your mobile tiny home in a property’s driveway.

You can find properties that allow RV parking using platforms such as Outdoorsy and RVwithMe. However, check first the city regulations, especially the provision that covers private property parking just to be safe.

3.    Casinos

Numerous casinos allow RVs to park when there are available spaces. You can find RV parking along the NASCAR circuit in Las Vegas. These casinos usually charge a small fee, which slightly rises during holidays and weekends.

If you want to ensure that you can park your RV in their establishments, check first with the management. Some casinos also have a designated parking area for RVs which is separate from the regular parking spots for their customers.

4.    Truck Stops

This might surprise you, but you can actually use truck stops for RV parking. However, you also need to observe rules meant for truckers. Be mindful, though, as you will have larger vehicles such as tractor-trailers and oversized rigs parked in the vicinity as well.

The great thing about truck stops is you will get to meet people who also choose to stay there for a while. On the flip side, you also need to better secure your vehicle and belongings.


Registering and using your tiny home as an RV is one way to make your tiny home on wheels legal. However, doing so also has its own consequences in some states because it is now a vehicle rather than a dwelling place.

Related Questions

What are the advantages of registering my tiny home as an RV?

There are numerous pros when you register your THOW as an RV. For example, it can help you bypass some provisions of the building code. But for the most part, its main advantage revolves around mobility and gaining more places where you can park it.

What are the disadvantages of cataloging your THOW as an RV?

Once registered as an RV, your mobile tiny home is now a vehicle. RVs are generally temporary shelters for camping. Hence, you can’t use it as a permanent dwelling.

Is it required to register my tiny home as an RV?

Not necessarily. However, if you have decided you want a mobile tiny home rather than a stationary one, you best do so. Registering your THOW as an RV can help you prevent stiff fines once you drive the unit.  

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