The short answer? KEEP IT MOVABLE!
In this blog post we highlight key information from the new Tiny House Guidance Document that tiny house owners needs to know to ensure their tiny house on wheels is a vehicle and therefore exempt from the Building Act 2004.
Building or vehicle? - MBIE Decision Tree
The below decision tree has been extracted from the MBIE Tiny House Guidance Document. We recommend anyone considering building a tiny house reads the full document, and makes sure they fully understand how the existing laws could apply to their situation. That said, this blog post is specifically about the Building Act 2004, it can be simplified in this way: if your tiny house is a vehicle, it is exempt from the Building Act 2004.
All Tiny Homes built by Build Tiny meet the definition of a vehicle under both the Building act 2004 and the Land Transport Act, these definitions can bee seen here:
Definition of 'Vehicle' under the Land Transport Act
Definition of 'Vehicle' under the Building Act 2004
Because tiny homes are designed to be occupied, the key part of the above definition is ensuring that you tiny house is NOT immovable. The determining factors of whether MBIE would consider something immovable or not are:
Does the design enable it to be moved or relocated with relative ease?
Are there features common to vehicles e.g. suspension, shocks, springs, brakes, brake lights, turn signals and number plates?
Does it have a warrant of fitness/certificate of fitness or could it pass a warrant of fitness/certificate of fitness test?
Does it rest on wheels alone or is it otherwise self-supported, or requiring some other form of stabilisation?
Is it connected to features that would need to be deconstructed if it was to be moved e.g. foundations, walkways or decking?
Has it been moved in the past, and is the intention to move it in the future?
Is it connected to on site services and how has this been done e.g. water, wastewater, electricity?
So, what are our recommendations for ensuring your tiny house is exempt from the Building Act?
Build it onto a road registered fully functioning trailer (this is standard for all tiny homes built by Build Tiny)
Keep you trailer connected to your tiny house when sited
Keep you WOF and rego up to date
Support your Tiny House as necessary with removable blocks, and the stabilisers that come with you trailer (trailer jacks can be used too but need to be protected from the weather). Removable ground screw anchors are another good solution, especially for tie down points in high wind zones as they're temporary and easily removed.
If you build a deck or walkway etc, don't fix it to the tiny house, build it as an independent structure, and ideally with temporary foundations such as ground screw anchors.
Ensure there is access to be able to remove the tiny house, i.e. don't build permanent structures adjacent to or near by to your tiny hose that would prevent you from being able to move it.
Keep photo and video records of your tiny house any time it is moved so that you can prove/demonstrate that it has 'moved in the past'.
Avoid onsite connections where possible with off grid technology, or ensure any connections to onsite services are done so in a temporary fashion.
Check out the full guidance document from MBIE here for further reading.