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What are the rules for tiny houses, WFH pods, and backyard cabins?

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Times are changing, and people are starting to look at alternative housing solutions. What am I talking about? Tiny houses, granny flats, backyard cabins and work-from-home pods. (Yes, pods!) Though these structures are super convenient and wonderfully compact, there are still a few rules and regulations that need to be adhered to with regards to their construction. 


Council approval, planning permits and certificates

When it comes to gaining council approval, the process is often quite fast. Only in unique situations are planning permits required, like when there’s a heritage overlay or you’re planning on putting a pod in the front yard. Backyard structures receive more leniency as they are out of sight, though building permits are sometimes still needed. Typically though, it will depend on the land you’re planning to build on, but in general, gaining council approval for a small structure like a pod is a simple process. 


Permissions for granny flats 

Granny flats, however, are a different kettle of fish, and the process can be rather complicated as the flats need to be classified as a Dependent Person’s Unit (DPU); this means they’re subject to specific rules, starting with the number of people legally allowed to inhabit them. 

In Victoria, only one dependent person can live in a granny flat at any given time in a non-permanent capacity; this is so the structure can be removed as soon as the individual stops living there. But first, remember to check with your real estate or property buyers agent if a building permit is required for a granny flat in your state.

Now this is where your granny flat permits can get a little dicey. In Victoria for example, if the structure is not classified as a DPU, then it is automatically considered a second dwelling. For this reason, areas such as high-density or green wedge environments will require a planning permit and a building permit.

But here in NSW where granny flats really are quite common, the rules are a little more relaxed. With just a Complying Development Certificate (or in some instances, a Development Application), and an Occupation Certificate once construction is complete, you can get your granny flat built! And though lots cannot be subdivided, homeowners can rent out their granny flats to anyone they like. This explains the rise in granny flat rentals in recent years!  


Moveable dwellings

Did you know recently, the NSW government changed the law so that people could live in caravans, vans or ‘manufactured homes’ on private property for up to two years without needing council approval? This was a direct response to the pandemic and natural disasters experienced throughout the state over the last couple years, where people needed to up and move for their own safety expeditiously. 

In other states however, moveable dwellings occupy a unique grey area when it comes to approvals, as they’re often lumped in with caravans – and considering that the 556 local governments in Australia each have different rules for how long you’re permitted to live in a caravan, this is a frustrating situation tiny home owners find themselves in, as it puts them at risk of being told to move without warning on by local government authorities. 

In NSW, moveable tiny houses like caravans can be parked on private property, but for every other state, it is prohibited to stay put for any decent length of time. And then there’s the issue of building codes. 


Keep it to code

Did you know that tiny houses on wheels are not subject to any building codes? That may feel like a win for campervan owners, but I strongly advise owners to build their structure to code for their own safety. 

I want to see the tiny house movement grow so people can ultimately have freedom of movement and the ability to safely set up on privately owned land without the threat of ‘eviction’. It’s also a great way to see more of our wonderful country if your home has wheels, enjoy a quiet new space on your existing land with a WFH pod, or make a few extra dollars each month renting out a granny flat. 

If you love the idea of downsizing in a big way, or simply changing the way you live and work, a tiny home on wheels may be the right choice for you! We’re the Australian buyers agency with the knowledge and connections you need to make your property downsize (or upgrade) a reality. So give us a call on (02) 8916 6172 or email the team at for more information!

Our buyers’ agent fees are flat so you know exactly the fee you will pay – full stop. Click here to learn more

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