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September 19, 2017

State exploring rule changes for ‘tiny houses’

The growing popularity of tiny houses in Maine is creating problems for communities that don't have specific regulations tailored to homes of less than 400 square feet whose small footprint requires accommodations such as sleeping lofts that don't always conform to traditional building codes.

The Kennebec Journal reported that the state's Technical Codes and Standards Board is working to change that by adopting an appendix to the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code that will apply specifically to tiny houses.

The board held a public hearing Monday on its proposal and is accepting written comments until Sept. 28, the newspaper reported.

A blog posted this summer by Andrew Hill, a lawyer based in Brunswick and Yarmouth, outlines some of the code issues would-be owners of tiny houses face in Maine.

The primary issue, he wrote, is that they are typically built on wheels, which "leads regulators to treat them the same as recreational vehicles" — which many communities place limits on in terms of how long they can stay in one location.

On the other hand, he wrote, if the wheels are removed and the home is put on a foundation, the tiny house could come under the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code, which Hill wrote communities having populations above 4,000 must follow.

Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, had sponsored a bill in the last legislative session — LD 873,"An Act To Adopt Tiny House Standards in the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code" — to address some of those problems, but withdrew it in order to give the state board the opportunity to exercise its own rule-making authority instead.

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