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If you’ve ever dreamed of leaving leases behind and downsizing your life, you’ve probably considered a shipping container home. They’re modular, customizable, and can be scaled up or down to fit your unique needs. However, once you start looking more closely into it, you may come to realize that the laws governing shipping container homes are particularly complex. What’s legal in one state may be illegal in another, and it can be difficult to gauge what regulations to follow and what permits to acquire. Fortunately, at PSE Consulting Engineers, we can help. We’ve gathered some of the most common regulations that determine the viability of container homes, so you can begin to do your own research on the particulars of your area.

Regulations That May Affect Your Container Home

When it comes down to it, state, county, and city regulations will determine the potential for your container home. It’s important to check all regulations that may affect your home before starting to build. The last thing you want is to begin construction only to learn that your new container home is illegal.

Scale and Usage

One of the first things to consider when talking about a container home is the scale and usage. The term ‘Container Home’ can be used to describe anything from a single container similar in size to an RV, all the way up to multi million-dollar architectural masterpieces. Because of this distinction, it may affect the regulation governing a container home’s legality. Some zoning laws related to the size and height of a home, and will determine its feasibility. Another factor to consider is how you intend on using this new container home. Will it be a primary residence, short term rental, or something else? Depending on the state and zoning laws, this occupancy can affect whether or not you can build there. 

Property Zoning Laws

Zoning determines which regulations apply where and what types of things can be built. A perfect example is residential vs. commercial, or high-rises vs. houses. Cities will zone areas for particular uses and will manage what is allowed to be built there. Zoning laws often apply to container homes, and it’s important to take them into account when choosing a location. 

Permits and Building Codes

Building codes specify the guidelines to which new buildings must adhere. As a new structure, container homes are held to the same standards as other residencies, and must be built as such. The United States’ building codes are derived from The International Code Council’s International Residential Code and International Building Code. These codes regulate factors such as plumbing, electric, mechanical, and fire protection for buildings, and must be followed. Furthermore, states, counties, and cities add their own codes that must also be taken into account. 

Building permits are a license that you must apply for to prove that your home is being built to code. In order to be granted the permit, you must demonstrate that you’re complying with any applicable building codes and regulations. 

Deed Restrictions and Homeowners Association Regulations

Deed Restrictions, also known as Restrictive Covenants, are specific regulations that apply to a property. Often these restrictions are put in place by the land developer in an effort to maintain a semblance of uniformity to a neighborhood. Though these regulations are applied to the deed, they are technically private agreements and thus cannot be directly enforced by a governmental entity. However, failure to comply may result in the Home Owners Association taking legal action against you and your new home. Because they are private agreements and are not federally regulated, these deed restrictions can regulate a variety of things including use and aesthetics. 

How Do I Start The Process of Designing a Shipping Container Home?

As detailed above, a lot goes into whether or not you can build a shipping container home in your area, and you may be feeling skeptical about your plans– but don’t worry! It’s still an option, you just need to look into which rules and regulations may apply. We suggest looking at the lowest level and moving on from there. This means checking out your property’s deed restrictions, your homeowners association’s regulations, and your town or city’s specific zoning laws and figuring out what’s allowed. From there, you’ll want to keep going up. Speak to city or county officials, people in the building permit offices, and ensure that your shipping container home is legal. Once you’ve decided you want to build a shipping container home, you need a sound design! That’s where we come in. At PSE Consulting Engineers, we work with you to ensure that your container home dream is realized. We can design the perfect home for you, whether it’s a small one container home or a multi-container masterpiece. Contact us today to learn more!