The Legality Of Living Off The Grid

One of the perks of tiny living is being able to reduce, and perhaps even eliminate, your reliance on traditional power sources.

Also known as “living off the grid“, cutting the cord to the state run power grid in your own tiny home is now a possibility thanks to exciting new technologies and products.

While this possibility may sound awesome (and it is), some municipalities, cities, and states make the process confusing, costly, and – in some cases – illegal.

Perhaps they don’t like the thought of you living on our planet scot-free!

So today we want to arm you with the knowledge to avoid potential pitfalls on your quest to lower your dependence on the grid and embark on a cleaner way of living..

What Is Living Off The Grid?

The simplest way to define “living off the grid” is not being connected to the power grid that connects the public. Technically, it is NOT illegal to live off the grid.

You can produce your own power to use in your house independently from the public power grid. Aside from electricity, living off the grid could also mean growing your own food, which is also legal. 

When Does Living Off The Grid Become Illegal?

Well, that would depend on the city or county ordinances plus zoning restrictions that are passed in your location. These could be restrictive with your activities that are related to living off the grid. Here are a few instances when living off the grid becomes illegal.


Camping for more than two weeks is illegal even if you are in your own land. That’s true for most places in the United States. This rule had great intentions as it helped prevent keeping homeless people from creating tent cities, which could devalue the properties around it. 

Although it is illegal to camp in your own land for more than 2 weeks, there is a way to go around it. First, you can just avoid reaching that 2-week limit. Secondly, you can also apply for a long-term camping permit. However, if they don’t issue you a permit, you just can’t camp for more than 2 weeks in your land as you build your own cabin. 

The Minimum Square Footage

Another problem that you could face is the square footage of your house. In some cities and counties, there is a minimum requirement and if you don’t meet it, then you won’t be given a building permit. Remember that you just can’t build your tiny home, or any home for that matter, without a permit from the county or city office. 

Apart from the minimum square footage of the tiny home, you should also check if your building meets the international building codes. One way to work around this is to get something called a “variance”. This allows you to build something that’s smaller than the minimum square footage requirement. However, it can be a challenge to get approved. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t build your tiny home illegally

Minimum Lot Size

Similar to minimum square footage of your building, there may also be a requirement about the minimum lot size. In cities, the minimum is smaller. However, in rural areas the minimum slot sizes could become larger. Usually, rural areas have a lot size of 5-10 acres. This requirement is affected by the county’s population and density requirements. 

If you have a large acre of land and you want to partition and it and sell some off, you need to have the variance. However, if you do that, they could also consider your land as a subdivision. This means you will be required to create roads and water management systems. The divided lots should also have a plan that is to be submitted to the authorities. 

With this, each of your lots will be given a different address. When you apply for this, you have to get it approved by the county. Plus, you also have to have the approval of your neighbors. 

Water Restrictions

In order to abide with the sanitation and health regulations, you must have a water source in your property. If your property has a well, then you can get away without hooking up to the city water. However, there are still some counties that will require you to hook up with the city water. The best thing to do is to check first with locality. If you really prefer not to hook with the water of the city, then you should find another place to live. 

Power System Requirements

Just like water systems, there are also some counties which do not allow you to be disconnected. These are usually rural places that are close to the town. For some counties, they could allow you to have a grid-tied solar power system. With this, you could sell any of the surplus power you have back to the city. The downside is if you are not generating enough power for yourself, then you’d still need to pay for the electricity you use for your home. 

Septic Systems

Even if you are living off the grid, you just can’t dump your waste in the ground. You should have a septic system that should also be tested. This is to avoid contaminating the ground and natural bodies of water. 

Livestock Restrictions

In rural areas, you are usually free to have livestock. However, if you are closer to the city, then there could be some restrictions. If you want to have your own livestock, you should have your home in an area that is zoned for animals or an agricultural area. 

Selling Your Garden Produce

If you have excess garden produce, you just can’t sell them. You need to have a permit and health inspections to legally sell your produce. This is all for health and safety reasons. Although it seems that the cities are very restrictive and could be a hindrance to your off-the-grid living, they are just looking out for the health and safety of other people too.