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What makes any of these illegal are the safety codes that allow them to be legal. Let’s see, if you are thinking about buying a shipping or storage container and making it into a primary residential home, then here are the Pros and Cons to keep in mind:


  • Contribute by putting to good use all the unused containers scattered around global shores
  • Inexpensive as these empty shipping containers will most likely be purchased for $1,000 to $2,000 each
  • They are strong and durable because they are made from galvanized steel, so much safer than wooden frames
  • Ample open space to create any design, for example side by side or even on top of each other
  • Quick solution for a ready-to-go home
  • Fire resistant, termites and mold
  • Easily transported
  • Low maintenance
  • Additional containers can be added for creating more living space


  • Need for an effective insulation and maybe extra roof to stay cool, as they are made of steel and this steel is an extreme heat conductor
  • Used containers may contain traces of pesticides and other chemicals used to protect cargo during transport
  • They might require removal of the container floors due to those traces of pesticides
  • Solvents used in shipping container construction could be harmful as they initially were not made for living
  • Building permits for a shipping container home may vary by state and county
  • If used in a residential area, the county requires them to be re-framed on the exterior with stucco or sidings as they must look like regular houses in the neighborhood

Therefore, if you are thinking about downsizing into a storage container home, a recreational vehicle or a tiny house? Much consideration should be given to any of three as research is needed for each one of the choices. When the containers are used for building, you may hear references such as: ISBU, or Intermodal Steel Building Unit. You want to downsize, but never thought you would run into so many answered questions regarding this topic. Thought it was an easy decision just to buy a land or lot and place any of these as a primary residence? Well, you are in for a surprise.

Under current county regulations shipping container homes require a building permit unless they are less than 120 square feet and are used as accessory storage buildings without any associated plumbing, electrical, or mechanical permits. Containers of 320 square feet or less are exempt from permit and plan check fees under the county’s Homeowners Relief Act, and the container must meet all zoning requirements for use, size, and setbacks. A container on residentially zoned property must have stucco or frame siding materials and appropriate roofing materials attached to the outside so that it appears to be a normal frame or stucco storage building; siding and roofing materials are not required if it will be placed in non-residential neighborhood.

A couple of weeks ago we visited 4 different RV parks and found it was a big disappointment to see that the space allowed between each RV was not even enough space to have the awning opened up with a couple of chairs and a BBQ. Prices for monthly rentals ran approximately $400 per month, but the real nice RV parks were about $700 per month. These, on the other hand, had all the great amenities like pools, extra space for an RV, concrete parking, picnic tables, laundry, gazebos and many more great facilities.

In the meantime, many of us have heard about recent proposed changes that affect the RV regulations, namely FR-5877-P-01. To sum it up in simple words, there were articles and videos making reference to the Government HUD Rule Could Prohibit Use of Tiny House as Dwelling Domicile Primary Residence. But nothing farther from the truth, as the regulations being proposed refer to Recreational Vehicles only. Basically, Recreational Vehicles are exactly that and nothing more. RVs are for recreation and are not to be used more than 30 consecutive days as implied in primary residences. RVs are not ruled by HUD, they fall under a different set of regulations.

Tiny Houses, on the other hand, fall under HUD regulations and are allowed to be used as primary residences being built within their respective building codes by certified builders. If the Tiny House is built by a non-certified builder, then this entity or person must abide by those building codes in order for it to be used as legal residence.

Most importantly, is that all these regulations are solely seeking for is that the primary residence must be safe and built to codes for the well being of the people or families living in them. The International Residential Code (IRC) is the responsible codes regulating single and two-family dwellings.

Storage Container Homes, RVs and Tiny Houses – What’s This Rumor About Being Illegal?

Storage Container Homes, RVs and Tiny Houses - What's This Rumor About Being Illegal?