Tiny Houses in Nashville. What We Know and What You Should Know Too.

This post was one of the most popular posts on our previous blog, and it's the number one topic of the email inquiries that come through, so it's probably best to get this one out of the way first.

The short answer that I always give when people ask me about tiny houses in Nashville is this: Currently, there is NOWHERE in Nashville where tiny houses on WHEELS are legal to LIVE in. I know. That seems crazy because people have them, hell, WE have one! They're still not legal to live in.

Now, the long answer (buckle up, because I promise this gets confusing.)

Are Tiny Houses Legal in Nashville?


Wait. What? You just said they weren't. 

Kinda. I said Tiny Houses on WHEELS aren't legal to LIVE in here in Nashville. They are totally legal to HAVE. And tiny houses that fall under the guidelines for Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs) or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are also legal in some zones in Nashville.

Sarah. You're an asshole. Stop splitting hairs.

Honestly, I'd love to, but the "law" is all about splitting hairs.

Let me start with tiny houses on wheels (THOW). If you want to have a THOW in Nashville, you can. The zoning codes that I dug up once upon a time (they've since moved the code and I haven't been able to locate it again. I'll update here when I find it) stated that you could park vehicles under 18k lbs on your property as long as they were on pavement or gravel. (Let's take a moment here to appreciate living in a city that still allows people to park their boats and RVs on the property, instead of making them pay for storage in the off-season!)

So what does this mean? It means you can have a tiny house and you can park it on property that you own. You'd think that checks all the boxes! But it doesn't. Unless you plan to keep your tiny house on wheels as an office or yoga studio or something, in order to legally LIVE in a tiny house, it needs to have an occupancy permit and in order to have an occupancy permit, it needs to pass building inspection and (please don't kill the messenger) you can't pass the building inspection if you're on wheels as structures on wheels fall under the purview of the DMV and are not considered dwellings (structures intended for sleeping).

But wait. RV's are on wheels and they ARE designed for dwelling.

True! However, it's only "legal" to sleep in an RV if it's parked in an area zoned for an RV park. (Please know that I completely understand how ridiculous this is getting. I wish that were the end of it the insanity, but it's not)

So, what if I took it OFF it's wheels, so that it WOULD fall under the purview of the building department, they could inspect it and I could get an occupancy permit.

It's a good thought! Unfortunately, as of right now Nashville has only adopted the 2013 International Building Codes, and while they are more tiny house friendly than the previous version, it's still not possible to build a tiny house to road-worthy specs and have it pass the building inspection.

This is ridiculous. Okay. So I guess I'll just have to buy a plot of land and build a tiny house on a foundation.

 Well, not so fast. Maybe. There are some plots of land in Nashville without a minimum sq ft requirement; they are mostly located in historic districts. Unfortunately, those districts are also usually really expensive to buy land in, which kinda defeats the purpose of a tiny house to begin with. 

Shit. (I'm assuming here that you swear. If you don't skip that part). You mentioned that DADUs are legal in some zones. Tell me more about those.

Gladly! DADUs/ADUs are structures (and they can be tiny!) that are secondary to a primary dwelling. They must be permitted and built to code. In most zones that allow them (and not all do, so check the zoning for your particular plot of land because yours could be different than even your neighbors) they just can't be larger than 700 sqft (or over 900 if there is a garage in it). Last I read, there was not a minimum sqft requirement, but it would have to abide by all building codes, which would require it to be a few hundred sqft. 

So, having said all that, there are a couple drawbacks to DADUs/ ADUs. 

1) There has to be a larger primary dwelling on the property, and the property has to be located in a zone that allows DADUs. Oh, and the secondary structure has to be owned by the same person who owns the primary structure. This sucks for obvious reasons.

2) The structure can't be any taller than the main structure (so if the main structure has one floor, the DADU/ADU can't have two floors).

3) The DADU/ADU must have a similar physical appearance as the main structure. (Boo.)

4) They have to have a DADU/ADU permit, which costs upwards of $1,000. 

If all this is true Sarah, than how do you guys have Music City Tiny House?!?

Well, friend, it's because we're not following the rules. When John and I decided to join this movement, we knew full well that it wasn't officially permitted in most cities yet. Instead of being mad about it, we decided to push forward and become advocates, knowing full well that we could get shut down at any moment. We wanted to expose as many people to the tiny house world/philosophy as we could, because the more people that know about it, the more supporters it would have, and the more supporters it has, the more likely it is that we'll get the laws and regulations changed so that someday tiny houses will be LEGAL in Nashville!! That's our goal.

So, there you have it folks. It's what we know about tiny houses in Nashville, and now you know too. If you have any questions that I have managed not to include here comment below and I'll respond!