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Can You Live in A Yurt (& Which Permits Are Required)?

I’ve always wanted to buy a ton of acres, build a yurt on the land, and call it home. The only issue is that some states and counties don’t allow yurts to be your primary home. So, I did some research and finally came up with some answers on where you can live in a yurt and which building permits are required. Here’s what I found.

Some counties, such as Napa in California and Taos in New Mexico, allow yurts as primary residences, but specific requirements must be met. Generally, these requirements are that your yurt must meet local zoning and building codes. Check with your county for their specific requirements by visiting their website.

Yurt in new mexico

Let’s get into specific rules for each state, and how to live in a yurt full-time.

How To Live in a Yurt Full-Time

Living in a yurt full-time can be a rewarding experience that brings you closer to nature and promotes a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle.

First, choose a yurt size that will comfortably accommodate your daily needs, including sleeping, cooking, and working spaces. Remember, you can always add walls to separate different areas like a bathroom.

The most important thing to learn about before deciding to live in a yurt is how you will incorporate essential utilities such as water, electricity, and waste disposal.

For an off-grid lifestyle, consider using rainwater collection systems, composting toilets, solar panels for electricity, and greywater recycling for water management. When it comes to cooking, wood stoves are great options.

There’s also the option of hooking up to the grid with the help of electricians or plumbers.

For extra help with setting up electricity and plumbing in your yurt, check out my articles Do Yurts Have Electricity? (How To Get It) and Can Yurts Have Bathrooms & Showers? (Plumbing).

Another thing to invest in is high-quality insulation materials to keep your yurt warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

It’s also a good idea to put into consideration where you plan on building your yurt. Platforms are helpful when building a yurt, so you don’t risk flooding or an unstable base.

Lastly, it’s good to take note that just like houses, yurts need regular maintenance to ensure their longevity and prevent potential issues. Inspect the exterior for wear and tear, tighten ropes and cables, and ensure the central dome skylight is functioning correctly.

Which States Allow You To Live in a Yurt?

Yurt in the forest in Alaska

Yurt living regulations vary by state and local jurisdiction, and it’s important to research the specific rules and requirements in the area where you’re planning to set up your yurt.

You can contact your local building department which should be located in your county.

Here’s a list of some states and their general attitudes toward yurt living:

StateYurt Living Allowed?Notes
CaliforniaYes, with permitsBuilding codes and zoning regulations vary by county. Counties that allow living in a yurt include Eureka and Napa.
OregonYes, with permitsYurts are popular in Oregon and generally allowed with proper permits.
ColoradoYes, with permitsSome counties have more relaxed regulations for yurts.
TexasCase-by-case basisRegulations vary widely by county and city.
New YorkCase-by-case basisRural areas are generally more accepting of yurts.
WashingtonYes, with permitsYurts can be used as primary residences with proper permits.
VermontYes, with permitsYurts are often considered temporary structures, but permits may still be required.
MontanaCase-by-case basisRegulations depend on the specific county and zoning.
MaineYes, with permitsYurt living is popular in rural areas, but permits are still required.
ArizonaCase-by-case basisSome areas have more relaxed regulations for yurts.
IdahoCase-by-case basisRegulations depend on the specific county and zoning.
New MexicoCase-by-case basisRural areas may be more accepting of yurts, but permits may still be required. The county of Taos allows yurts as primary dwelling as long as you meet the building requirements.
North CarolinaCase-by-case basisRegulations vary widely by county and city.
TennesseeCase-by-case basisRegulations depend on the specific county and zoning.
UtahCase-by-case basisSome areas have more relaxed regulations for yurts.
WyomingCase-by-case basisRural areas may be more accepting of yurts, but permits may still be required.
AlaskaCase-by-case basisRemote locations may have fewer regulations for yurts.
MichiganCase-by-case basisRegulations vary widely by county and city.
WisconsinCase-by-case basisRegulations depend on the specific county and zoning.

When researching the regulations for yurt living in your desired location, be sure to consider local zoning laws, building codes, and specific requirements for utilities and waste management.

Does a Yurt Count as a House (What Are Yurts Classified As)?

Yurt with a platform

Yurts are often not classified as traditional houses, but instead, fall under categories like “temporary structures” or “alternative housing.” This classification can affect the type of permits and regulations that apply to yurts.

The classification of a yurt as a primary residence largely depends on the county and local jurisdiction.

In some areas, yurts can be considered a primary dwelling, while in others, they might only be allowed as accessory structures or seasonal living spaces.

Yurts that are built to meet local building codes and include proper utility systems, such as plumbing and electricity, are more likely to be considered primary residences.

Additionally, yurts with permanent foundations or those that are larger and more structurally similar to traditional homes may have an easier time being classified as a primary dwelling.

An idea that I’ve had and I’m pretty sure others have had too is to live in a yurt while your actual house is being built.

What Permits Do You Need To Build a Yurt?

Again, the permits required to build a yurt depend on the specific state, county, and local jurisdiction where you plan to set up your yurt. Here are some examples of permits you may need when building a yurt:

  1. Building Permit: A building permit is generally required for the construction of any structure, including yurts. This permit ensures that your yurt meets local building codes and safety standards. The permitting process may involve submitting detailed plans, specifications, and site plans for review by the local building department.
  2. Zoning Permit: A zoning permit ensures that your yurt complies with local land-use regulations. Some areas have specific rules for structures like yurts, while others treat them as temporary structures or accessory dwellings. You’ll need to determine which zoning requirements apply to your yurt and obtain the necessary permits.
  3. Electrical Permit: If you plan to install electrical wiring in your yurt, you’ll likely need an electrical permit. This permit ensures that your electrical system meets local safety standards and is installed by a licensed electrician.
  4. Plumbing Permit: A plumbing permit may be required if you plan to install plumbing fixtures in your yurt, such as sinks or toilets. This permit ensures that your plumbing system meets local health and safety standards.
  5. Septic Permit: If your yurt will have a septic system for waste management, you’ll need to obtain a septic permit from the local health department. This permit ensures that your septic system is designed and installed properly, protecting both the environment and public health.

To obtain these permits, contact your county office to determine the requirements, submit your application and wait for review and approval.

For example, in Santa Cruz County, California, yurts are generally allowed as accessory structures or temporary living spaces. However, specific requirements and permits may vary depending on the specific use and location of the yurt. Some of the permits that may be required in Santa Cruz County include:

  • A building permit for the construction of the yurt, ensuring it meets local building codes and safety standards.
  • A zoning permit to ensure compliance with local land-use regulations.
  • Electrical and plumbing permits if you plan to install these systems in your yurt.
  • A septic permit if you plan to install a septic system for waste management.

8 Tips To Know Before Building Yurts

Dissembled yurt

1. Research local regulations

Before building a yurt, make sure to research local building codes, zoning regulations, and permitting requirements in your desired location.

These rules can vary widely, and understanding the local requirements will ensure a smooth building process and legal compliance.

2. Choose the right size and design

Consider your specific needs and lifestyle when choosing the size and design of your yurt. Think about how many people will be living in the yurt, the desired layout, and any additional space requirements for rooms like bathrooms or work offices.

3. Consider the climate

When building a yurt, it’s important to consider the climate of your chosen location. Invest in high-quality insulation materials and proper ventilation systems to ensure a comfortable living environment in both hot and cold weather conditions.

Cooler climates may require more layers of insulation.

4. Plan for utilities

As I mentioned earlier, plan for essential utilities such as water, electricity, and waste disposal. Research off-grid solutions like rainwater collection, solar panels, composting toilets, and greywater recycling systems to create a sustainable living environment.

5. Choose a suitable foundation

The foundation of your yurt is essential for stability and longevity.

Options include concrete slabs, pier-and-beam systems, or even wooden platforms. The best foundation type will depend on the local regulations, terrain, and climate conditions.

To see some of the best options for flooring, check out my recent article Do Yurts Have A Base & Flooring? (6 Best Flooring Options).

6. Invest in quality materials

When building a yurt, investing in high-quality materials will ensure the structure’s durability and longevity. Consider factors like UV resistance, mold and mildew resistance, and weather resistance when selecting materials for your yurt’s cover and frame.

7. Prepare the site

Before construction begins, properly prepare the building site. This may include clearing the land, leveling the ground, and creating access for construction vehicles and materials. Proper site preparation is essential for the stability and longevity of your yurt.

8. Consider hiring a professional

If you’re not experienced in construction or yurt assembly, consider hiring a professional to help with the building process. Yurt manufacturers often offer installation services or can recommend experienced contractors to ensure your yurt is built correctly and safely.

Sources

  1. Kemery, B. (2006). Yurts: Living in the Round. Gibbs Smith.
  2. The Yurt Foundation. (n.d.). FAQs. https://www.yurtinfo.org/yurt-faqs
  3. Pacific Yurts. (n.d.). Yurt Living. https://www.yurts.com/yurt-living/

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