As you surely already know, making the choice to live in a Tiny House is now legal in France and is governed by the ALUR law (law for Access to Housing and Renovated Urbanism), adopted on February 20, 2014.

Before this law, there was a legal vacuum around alternative housing thus depriving many people wishing to invest in a tiny house for budgetary reasons or ecological convictions.

From now on, living other than in a house or apartment is allowed in France.

But if the ALUR law is a precious help to allow everyone to live in the habitat of their choice, it also allows town halls to accept or not your alternative housing according to certain criteria.

We therefore specify in this article your obligations and your rights to install a Tiny House in France and how to avoid a refusal on the part of your town hall. We also explain the different legislation for alternative habitats in our Belgian friends.

What is a light habitat?

Lightweight habitat on wheels
Model made by Tiny House Bimify

There is a very precise definition of the government to define a light habitat: “All light habitats have in common that they are removable, mobile and synonymous with a way of life based on sobriety and autonomy.”

We could therefore group in the same basket all alternative habitats such as yurts, tiny houses, teepees, trailers, mobile homes, tree houses etc … But in reality c’est l’utilisation que vous allez en faire which will determine the steps you need to take to install it on your land.

Installation of a light habitat: what does the Law say?

What does the law say about the installation of light housing
Setting up a tiny house in France or Belgium: what does the law say?

Be careful, hang on! We are going to take out the legislation here. Yes it is quite leading and indigestible to read but it is that it is a question of being precise (and untouchable for the Town Hall ^^)!

To begin, here is what article R-111-46-1 of the Urban Planning Code states:

” Installations without a foundation with indoor or outdoor equipment and which can be autonomous vis-à-vis public networks are regarded as removable residences constituting the permanent habitat of their users. They are intended for residential use and occupied as their principal residence for at least eight months a year. These residences and their outdoor equipment are, at any time, easily and quickly removable.”

Clearly, if you want the installation of your Tiny House to be protected as a removable residence, then you must leave it on its trailer to be easily transportable, occupy at least 8 months / year and that we can install equipment to be self-sufficient in electricity and water. Article R-421-19 of the Urban Planning Code specifies that a Development permit will be required for “The development of built or unbuilt land to allow the installation ofat least two removable residences creating a total floor area greater than forty square metres, as defined in article R. 111-51 and constituting thepermanent habitat of their users.”

So for a total floor area of less than 40 m2, a prior declaration is sufficient ! (Article R421-23 of the Urban Planning Code). This is also the case if you install your Tiny House less than 3 months in the field, as explained in our Article How to install a Tiny House on a plot of land .

If you do not want to connect to the public network and be 100% autonomous in water and electricity, thearticle R441-6-1 of the French Town Planning Code states that “Where the application relates to the development of a plot of land with a view to the installation of demountable residences as defined in Article R. 111-51, in accordance with Article 5 of the French Code of Obligations, the applicant must include in his application a copy of the following documents L. 111-11, a certificate permettant de s’assurer du compliance with health and safety rules, the building is designed to meet the needs of its occupants, particularly in terms of fire safety and the provision of water, sanitation and electricity. These conditions shall be laid down, where appropriate, by the local urban development plan, in particular in the sectors delimited pursuant to Article L. 151-13.”

These removable residences are different from light leisure homes.

The latter are considered by Article R111-37 of the Urban Planning Code as ” removable or transportable constructions, intended for temporary or seasonal occupation for leisure use.”

They can be implemented:

  • 1°) In residential leisure parks specially designed for this purpose;
  • 2°) In holiday villages classified as light accommodation in application of the tourism code;
  • 3°) In the outbuildings of family holiday homes approved in application of the Tourism Code ;
  • 4°) In the regularly created campsites, with the exception of those created by prior declaration or created without planning permission, these sites must be declared to the town hall in accordance with the provisions of the town planning code as they stood prior to 1 October 2007, or they must be natural camping areas. In this case, the number of light recreational dwellings must remain less than either thirty-five when the land includes less than 175 sites, or 20% of the total number of sites in other cases.

Outside these locations, light leisure dwellings are subject to the common law of constructions.

The areas where to install your Tiny House

Or install your tiny house
Setting up a tiny house in France or Belgium: what does the law say?

Owning land does not mean that you have the right to settle there freely. The freedom to become a homeowner is one thing, the freedom to fully enjoy it is another.

And yes, as citizens, we have rights AND duties.

But we will go back for the history and philosophy lesson, what interests us for the moment is much more pragmatic: where can I install my Tiny House in France?

On a private building plot, with the prior application or the permit to develop as seen above.

But now with the ALUR law, municipalities can also define in the PLU special zones for light habitats. In urban areas and in “pellets“: those agricultural or natural areas that are normally non-buildable.

It is therefore possible to install your Tiny House as part of a STECAL (Limited Size and Capacity Sector), which is a badge on the zoning map, included in the PLU, which specifies that light housing is accepted. In this case, it is a derogation from the non-constructibility provided for by the ALUR law.

But beware! Some areas remain prohibited from installation:

  • the so-called “STICK” agricultural areas as well as the protected natural areas in the PLU.
  • areas where isolated camping and the creation of campgrounds are prohibited.
  • woods, forests and parks classified by the PLU or a POS, such as wooded areas to be conserved for example.
  • classified forests, pursuant to Title 1 of Book IV of the Forest Code

To find your way around, the site lists some municipalities and land available for light habitats. We also advise you to get closer to your town hall upstream to check the PLU.

Despite the supervision of the ALUR and the obligations of the owners and municipalities, it is not uncommon to read that a mayor refused the sustainable installation of a Tiny House in his municipality, taking as a pretext “landscape integration“.

As this specialized lawyer answers:

“Landscape integration meets subjective but also legal criteria despite everything. Any construction project must integrate into an existing environment and look at the environment in which we integrate.

Obviously, if I am in a place that has no natural or architectural particularity, the mayor will not be able to oppose it.

But if I’m in a city centre with a very linear architecture, like in Brittany, I can’t do just anything. It is the same if I am in a natural environment with a very strong landscape quality.

At that time, we can have a debate on landscape integration.”

But the need for a change of course is there! The housing crisis, the need to apply more sustainable, low environmental impact and more accessible construction methods is becoming an obligation. All these elements mean that, with time and future jurisprudence, light housing can only develop!

What about Tiny Houses in Belgium?

Tiny house regulation in belgium
Setting up a tiny house in France or Belgium: what does the law say?

Among our Belgian neighbours and friends, legislation varies from region to region.

In Wallonia, the Tiny House is recognized as a light habitat in the same way as wooden huts, yurts and trailers, since September 2019.

The Tiny House must have at least 3 of these characteristics :

  • be movable
  • be removable
  • have a low weight
  • have a reduced volume
  • not be on foundation
  • not be connected to the impetrants (electricity, gas, water networks)
  • be self-built
  • have a limited footprint
  • not having a floor

Despite everything, the Walloon Code of Housing of Sustainable Housing requires a building permit to build your Tiny House but its procedure has been relaxed since you are exempt from calling on an architect. This Walloon Code only applies to places that serve as residence for users and not as tourist accommodation. Finally, you are allowed to live there if you respect the urban planning rules, otherwise you will get a provisional domiciliation.

In Brussels and Flanders, there is no legal framework for the tiny house.

You still need a planning permit and respect the Regional Planning Regulation, especially concerning the area and ceiling height of the Tiny House.

In Brussels, the Brussels Housing Code mentions “itinerant” housing (in reference to the Travellers’ home) without providing any clear details on the subject.

In any case, it is certain that in the capital, a building permit is mandatory beyond 5 m2.

While in Flanders a permit is required if the construction exceeds 6 m2. The Flemish region partially recognises “trailers and other forms of experimental housing”. A Tiny House project? Contact our team to discuss! Click here