A woman was forced to live in her tiny house secretly for 2 years after learning her local zoning laws didn't allow it
- An art teacher, who wishes to be identified only as Tina, moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for a new teaching position with her
tiny housein 2018.
- Since the town's zoning codes didn't allow people to live in tiny houses like hers full-time, Tina parked it in a colleague's backyard and lived under the radar for two years.
- Fearful of being caught, she "laid low," kept the curtains closed, and didn't decorate the outside of her
home. Tina said she had to "live under that stress" for two years.
- Tiny-house owners across the US face strict zoning codes that exclude tiny houses and consider them to be RVs.
When an art teacher in Pennsylvania moved into a tiny house, she wasn't prepared to live her new life in secret.
The teacher, who wishes to be identified only as Tina, said she regularly changed school districts because her programs were often nixed during budget cuts. Instead of dragging her husband and daughter around with her from school to school, she decided to build a tiny house (not pictured above) and live in it by herself.
In 2018, she was offered a teaching position in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but she couldn't find an RV park in the area that was tiny-house friendly. Luckily, a colleague at the school offered up their backyard as a place for Tina to park, but there was still was a problem: Bucks County does not allow tiny houses on wheels, like Tina's, to be parked in backyards nor can they be lived in full-time.
Tina decided to live under the radar in her colleague's backyard
Tina found that not only were there no tiny-house-friendly RV parks, but the town was also not welcoming to tiny houses in general, as the local government considered them to be recreational vehicles. In addition, the zoning ordinance for Bucks County says that recreational vehicles cannot "be designed for use as a permanent dwelling, but as a temporary living quarters for recreational, camping,
The property owner and Tina reached a deal, however: Tina could park her tiny house in the backyard next to the shed if they kept it under the radar and if Tina paid the fines if they were caught by the local authorities.
Tina's tiny house could be seen from the road, but, for the next two years, she did everything she could to make it seem like she wasn't living there full-time.
"I laid low," Tina said. "I kept the curtains closed at night, I kept the lights low, I didn't hang out in front of the house like I would have loved to, and I didn't hang plants outside. I didn't do any of those things like I would have wanted to. I was trying to make it look like I wasn't living there."
The stress of living under the radar took a toll on Tina
Tina said she was constantly worried that someone in the community would report her, especially because the tiny house was noticeable from the road.
"I lived under that stress for two years," she said. "You work all day and then you go home and you're holed up in your tiny house because you're worried about getting caught. It was kind of sad. What was the harm of me being there? It didn't put a strain on my colleague's resources. It was a totally harmless thing. I worked in that area and paid taxes in that area."
Living under the radar to avoid zoning codes is common among tiny-house owners
As Insider previously reported, in the eyes of most local governments, tiny houses are considered recreational vehicles - and, legally, you are not allowed to live in an RV full-time. As a result, tiny-house owners across the country have been forced out of their living situations or have struggled to find a place to park their tiny houses legally. Experts recommend that people looking to live in a tiny house work with their local zoning boards to push through new codes.
However, some owners choose to live under the radar, like Tina.
After two years of living in stealth, Tina moved back home with her family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she now parks her tiny house in her backyard and uses it as a studio space.
"It's still so new that people have not pushed zoning in enough places, on the East Coast especially," Tina said. "It's so new that they don't know what to do with it and don't know what it is, but the way [tiny houses] exist now, they do push you to live under the radar because you have no choice."
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