Just Park It: Tiny Houses as ADUs

Welcome to Today’s Tiny House Parking Spot! In episode 6, we parked our tiny home in my sister Nicole's backyard in northern Utah. For us, it is the an ideal way to visit family, striking a perfect balance between privacy and togetherness.  We first parked here two years ago. The backyard conveniently features a gravel RV pad, where we easily parked our tiny house on wheels.

During our initial two months in my sister’s backyard, we formed a temporary community. My sister, Nicole, brother-in-law, Frank, their two young children and Frank’s mother, Aleya, all resided in the big house. Our time spent together went beyond the typical family visit. Together we all created an informal mini cohousing community. The backyard space was communal living space, and we would go in the big house at least two times per day for social visits or to help out. We shared meals together on a regular basis. Christian and I contributed to utility bills, helped with childcare and chores, like shoveling snow.  It was rewarding to contribute and to grow closer bonds with my family that I had spent very little time with, in the past several years.

Cohousing Community: semi-communal housing consisting of a cluster of private homes and a shared community space whose residents share in tasks like childcare.

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My nephews, Charlie and Luke, loved our tiny house. Visiting us was a daily adventure for them. Luke made his own community contribution by frequently sweeping the snow off our steps and porch. So sweet! This living arrangement provided us with the best of both worlds, family/community time and the privacy of our own space to work or relax in. We often took breaks from working on the computer by visiting then baby Charlie, who was always happy to see us, or by starting impromptu snowball fights with Luke.

Did you know backyard parking is the most common THOW parking situation?


Tiny houses in backyards act as accessory dwelling units (ADUs), situated on a property with a primary residence. To date, this is the where the vast majority of tiny homes are parked for long-term stays. Backyard parking provides a convenient opportunity to share resources and build community. It is a pratical way to utilize existing, available land and infrastructure. Backyard communities are mutually beneficial for the tiny home dweller and the property owner. Often the tiny dweller helps to pay for and/or maintain the property. An especially valuable proposition for elderly homeowners or single parents, or anyone who needs a little extra help. In many of these arrangements, work/trade arrangements are negotiated. For instance, the tiny dweller may help with select property maintenance duties, like mowing, in exchange for rent or reduced rent.

ADUs, commonly known as granny flats, backyard cottages, in-law suites, and accessory apartments, are a form of residential infill housing on the precipice of a massive revitalization in the US.

Kol Peterson, author of Backdoor Revolution

Important consideration: most cities do NOT allow for tiny houses on wheels in backyards. Slowly but surely this is changing in cities and counties across the country. Watch our films Living Tiny Legally to learn more. For now, most tiny housers are living under the radar, at the mercy of their neighbors. One neighbor complaint can result in a code violation notice, requiring the tiny homeowner to vacate the property in as little as 48 hours, or up to 90 days in some cases. If you are uncomfortable with the risk, you can  advocate for change through your local planning department or move to a place that allows for full-time tiny house living.

A few places where you can legally park as an ADU:

  • Eagle Mountain, UT
  • Fresno, CA
  • Nantucket, MA
  • El Paso County, CO (unincorporated areas)

If you decide to take on the risk of parking on property not zoned for THOWs, you and the property owner should consider reaching out to the immediate neighbors. A great way to introduce yourself and find out if they have any concerns. Don’t forget to offer a tiny house tour! The founders of Going Places, a tiny cohousing community in Portland neighborhood, met with each of their neighbors. A privacy concern was raised. One of two tiny houses had a window that looked into a neighbors’ yard. To create more visual privacy, they placed a frosted, static window cling on the window. The initial neighbor communication kickstarted a process of building strong bonds and friendships with all their surrounding neighbors. Read more about this tiny house backyard community in this Tiny House Blog post.

 Going Places, tiny cohousing community in a Portland backyard

Going Places, tiny cohousing community in a Portland backyard

How to find tiny house parking on someone’s property:

  1. Create a flyer introducing yourself and your THOW. Pictures are great! Share your parking needs, AND what you are willing to offer in exchange for parking (rent, trade, etc.). Post your flyer around town and online, including:
  2. Search THOW parking sites:

Are you parked in a backyard? Please share your experience below.


by Alexis Stephens, Tiny House Blog contributor

My partner, Christian and I are traveling tiny house dwellers. Together we’ve been on the road three years for our documentary and community education project, Tiny House Expedition. We live, breathe, dream the tiny home community every day. This is our life and our true passion project. We are very grateful to be able to experience this inspiring movement in such an intimate way and to be able to share our exploration with all of you.

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Giovanni - November 16, 2018 Reply

I’ve been dreaming to build a tiny home and hit the road for years! I know I could build a solid one, especially the roof! I just gotta do it.. You re-sparked the fire!

Kim - November 20, 2018 Reply

I live in northern Utah. I have wanted to live in tiny house for several years. It isn’t allowed in my area. ADU is allowed with many restrictions. Due to distance from back and side fence, would make it too close to back of my house. I wish they would make it easier knowing that it could help relieve the housing shortage in this area.

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