Regulating Tiny Homes

Monday, February 10, 2020

On January 30, the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation heard public testimony regarding LD 1981, An Act Regarding the Regulation of Tiny Homes. The concept draft bill proposes to define a “tiny house” and allow for the titling of a tiny house as a camp trailer or trailer.

This bill comes after the Maine State Bureau of Motor Vehicles ceased registering, assigning vehicle notification numbers, and titling tiny homes on wheels in June 2019, preventing tiny home buyers from securing financing from traditional lenders. Prior to June 2019, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles registered and titled tiny homes as camp trailers or trailers under Title 29-A. Owners could freely move their tiny houses as often as they wished. 

Currently, owners of tiny homes must obtain a one-time transit permit from the Secretary of State in order to move their homes. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles has taken the stance that tiny homes do not fall within the definition of a camp trailer or trailer, nor do they fall within the definition of manufactured housing. 

Tiny homes may present an environmentally friendly solution to the rising cost of housing and, for some, play into a desire to live a more minimalist, “off the grid” lifestyle. However, their ambiguous status under state law has traditionally made it difficult to say where they fall under municipal land use ordinances and building codes, and whether they should be taxed as real or personal property. If tiny homes with wheels can be titled and registered as vehicles, this may provide some clarity regarding both issues.