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Tiny home slips through cracks of residential real estate bylaws

The bylaws and regulations of Alberta are meant to be comprehensive, and take as many possibilities into account as possible. Despite that, there sometimes arise situations that don't seem to fit the existing structure. An emerging trend in residential real estate has recently brought one of those situations to light.

In November of this year, an Alberta man moved his home to a piece of property west of Calgary. Officials from Rocky View County informed him his home violated a bylaw and the structure needed to be removed, or he would be subject to a $1,500 fine. The homeowner disagreed.

At the centre of the issue was the unusual home. It is a so-called 'tiny home' – it is a mere 160 square feet and can be towed like a trailer. According to the bylaw, a permanent residence exceeding 400 square feet must exist on the property before a trailer, recreational vehicle or shed may be installed. The owner and builder of the tiny home claims his house is none of those things and is not subject to the bylaw.

As a would-be builder and seller of tiny homes, the man has a heightened interest in the outcome of his case. He believes tiny homes are a viable solution to the rising cost of owning a home. Others do too. He built his home for just $15,000 and pays only $350 a month for the property. Tiny home communities are gaining favour and legal recognition in the United States and Quebec, but other provinces lack the legislation required for tiny homes to become commercially sustainable.

Alternative solutions to housing issues can sometimes run into problems. Zoning and usage bylaws may conflict with a buyer's plans for a property or structure. It might be prudent to work with an attorney experienced with Alberta real estate law before making any residential real estate deals or signing contracts that could end up being problematic.

Source: The Globe and Mail, "Lack of tiny home legislation prompts big fights", Sharon Crowther, Dec. 2, 2016

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