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Tiny Homes, Tiny Houses, Laws and the homestead act of Washington

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 though this bill helps establish a precedence, and was the most proactive legislation state wide 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, Chapter leader for the American Tiny House Association and now 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!


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 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 ever.

PROS: SB 5383 allowed for mobile home parks and rv parks to allow for tiny homes on wheels to be parked and resided in in parks.

CONS: The bill locked in tiny houses outside of mobile home parks to have to be tied down to a permanent foundation and tax assessed.

PROS: SB 5383 allowed schools, colleges and nonprofits a way to build to actually place homeless folks into houses.

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 certified as RVs being used as primary residences and anything but a vehicle.

Affordable housing threatens RV industry ARTICLE 


Seattle Tiny Homes, INC specializes in RV certified tiny homes which helps lower your cost of living in the home but you might be asking by now, where’s the good news? Where can I live legally? How can I live in a tiny home? Since Tiny Houses are more costly than a normal house to develop what are my options? Is it worth putting a tiny house on a trailer only to be told by a local city or county that I must remove the wheels and pay enormous fees to lock it into property and assess it as real property? 

THE GOOD NEWS: Leaning on the TEMPORARY concept of RV tiny homes can tiny home dwellers a lot of cash. Estimations of $50,000 on average to be exact. 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 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 and were better suited to smaller houses. Many homesteaders chose plank houses or shanties instead, for several reasons. 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.

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 playfield 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. One obstacle, a potential interpretative conflict between the operative statutes, also appears to be the easiest to overcome

“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. ” Todd McKellips

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