Tiny houses have become a trend across the nation to address the shortage of affordable housing. As tiny houses become more acceptable, the legislature finds that it is important to create space in the code for the regulation of tiny house siting.
Individual cities and counties may allow tiny houses with wheels to be collected together as tiny house villages using the binding site plan method articulated in chapter 58.17 RCW. The legislature recognizes that the International Code Council in 2018 has issued tiny house building code standards in Appendix Q of the International Residential Code, which can provide a basis for the standards requested within this act.
“This legalization is the first step we needed in Washington to legitimize tiny home living – this bill helps establish a precedence, and was the most proactive legislation statewide ever in the United States. There’s more work to be done in Washington State”. Todd McKellips WA Tiny House Association
Originally sponsored by Senators Zeiger, Palumbo, Nguyen, Short, Van De Wege, Wilson, C., and Wilson, L.
Proposed to Senator Hans Zeiger by Todd McKellips (Executive Director of the Washington Tiny House Association and CEO of Seattle Tiny Homes, Inc.
It’s becoming easier than ever to make your tiny living dreams come true in Seattle and the surrounding areas. According to the Seattle Times, “King County views tiny homes as ‘an affordable and efficient method of providing housing,” and “current building and zoning codes do not specifically define or specially regulate tiny houses, other than requiring they meet all general housing standards.” Furthermore, in 2019, landmark tiny home legislation was passed (bill ESSB 5383), which enables the development of tiny house eco-villages and reduces restriction of tiny houses on wheels around the state of Washington!
THE BASICS OF THE BILL:
PROS: SB 5383 cleared a pathway for developers to work with cities and counties to develop tiny home communities and allow for tiny dwellings.
CONS: The bill did not mandate cities must allow tiny houses, tiny homes or tiny home communities.
PROS: SB 5383 Brought Appendix Q to Washington to establish a baseline for the Washington Building Council to adapt construction standards.
CONS: The bill required anyone who wants to build a tiny house to go through a very extensive tiny house Labor & Industries inspection process.
PROS: SB 5383 Established tiny houses on wheels to be lived in and requires to be placed on property and assessed as REAL PROPERTY.
CONS: To assess and tax as real property removes the wheels and locks home to land and won’t allow you to move the home away from property in the future.
PROS: SB 5383 allowed for mobile home parks and RV parks to include tiny homes on wheels.
CONS: The bill locked in tiny houses (outside of mobile home parks) to be tied down to a permanent foundation and tax assessed.
PROS: SB 5383 allowed schools, colleges and nonprofits a way to build tiny houses for formerly homeless folks.
CONS: The bill did not mandate cities to create safe places for homes so development of tiny house communities is slow and expensive.
PROS: SB 5383 cleared a pathway for tiny houses on wheels
CONS: RVIA fought against tiny homes on wheels being certified as RVs and used as primary residences instead of a vehicle.
STEPS AND LEGAL LOOP HOLES:
THE GOOD NEWS: If you legally put in utilities, cities and counties do not have control over parking and living on your property per the Washington State Homestead Act.
WASHINGTON STATE HOMESTEAD LAWS:
Washington homestead laws allow a maximum exemption of $125,000, but don’t specify a maximum acreage.
Keep in mind, the homestead exemption doesn’t protect you from secured creditors such as your mortgage holder. If you don’t make your mortgage payments, your lender can foreclose and sell your house at auction to pay off the loan despite a “homestead exemption.”
One of the first projects for any homesteader was the construction of a residence. The law stipulated that a domicile suitable for permanent residence of at least 10 by 12 feet with a minimum of one window must occupy the property. Most of these homes were built with either logs, sod or cut lumber, depending on what material might be easily at hand. Living quarters on Washington homesteads were almost exclusively built with wood. Log cabins required few tools and no nails, but needed a ready supply of logs. Washington had a ready supply of trees and numerous mills, especially in the heavily forested areas near the Puget Sound and on the Olympic Peninsula.
Homesteading in Washington began in earnest later than many other states, the bulk coming after railroads had connected Seattle and Spokane to the Midwest, which provided better access to construction materials and tools needed for cut lumber homes. Plank homes were easier to add on to, and more mobile. It was not unheard of for homesteaders to move their home to a new claim if abandoning an old one. Unfortunately for those living in areas with colder winters, the plank homes were harder to heat.
Judge rules Seattle homeless man’s truck is a home:
King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer ruled that the city’s impoundment of Long’s truck violated the state’s homestead act — a frontier-era law that protects properties from forced sale — because he was using it as a home. Long’s vehicle was slated to be sold had he not entered into a monthly payment plan with the city. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/judge-rules-seattle-homeless-mans-truck-is-a-home/
The operative language of the HOMESTEAD Act is codified generally in RCW chapter 6.13. Of significance, RCW § 6.13.010 defines a homestead as simply “real or personal property that the owner uses as a residence,” which would include a vehicle resident’s personal vehicle.
The only relevant limitation expressed in the statute is that the owner of the property must intend to utilize the property as their principal residence. Once this definitional requirement is met, the Act is equally clear about its application of an automatic exemption from any form of forced sale to satisfy a judgement. In fact, the Act expressly requires that a claimed homestead be presumed valid unless its validity is successfully contested in court.
In addition to these unambiguous mandates, the Act has historically been construed liberally and given broad effect. In fact, from a public policy perspective, homestead exemptions have been described as necessary “to prevent the weak from being overpowered by the strong.” This combination of unambiguous mandate and liberal construction sets up a perfect playing field for judicial activism. However, even from this seemingly favorable statutory background, asserting homestead rights to protect a vehicle from authorized extrajudicial impoundment presents a few thorny questions that could allow a prudentially inclined bench to avoid the type of judicial intervention being sought.
“For now the Association is working with NFPA to create a new standard to establish construction standards as well as allow for the temporary needs of tiny home sitting across the country. We all know that tiny homes do not pose a threat to different industries and make a great investment and we at the Association are going to continue fighting for less government control over housing and more options for the people who want to live legally in smaller sustainable housing,” said Todd McKellips.