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Occupied Recreational Vehicles, including Tiny Houses on Wheels

Information
The City of Portland allows owners of a house, attached house or manufactured home to host up to one occupied recreational vehicle. The information on this page describes what is allowed and not allowed for placement of these vehicles.
On this page

Occupied recreational vehicles” are defined in Chapter 33.260 of the Portland Zoning Code as:

  • Recreational vehicles
  • Fifth-wheel recreational trailers
  • Campers attached on a vehicle
  • Constructed tiny houses built on a trailer with wheels

Vehicles, campers or structures that do not have wheels attached are not considered to be an occupied recreational vehicle nor a tiny home on wheels.

Land Use and other requirements

  • Only one occupied recreational vehicle is allowed on a residential lot with a primary dwelling.
  • Occupied recreational vehicles, including tiny house on wheels, are not permitted on undeveloped lots.
  • Occupied recreational vehicles must comply with parking requirements for recreational vehicles on residential lots. This generally means tiny houses on wheels must be parked on a paved surface if it has a motor and it cannot be located in front of the street-facing façade of the house, attached house or manufactured home.
  • An occupied recreational vehicle does not count toward residential density.
  • In most cases development standards for houses, attached houses and manufactured homes do not apply to a tiny house on wheels.
  • A tiny house on wheels is prohibited from being used as an accessory short-term rental.

Building code requirements

Although occupied recreational vehicles are not considered buildings, there are some building code requirements related to the vehicle’s location relative to other dwelling units. These vehicles must be parked at least five feet from the primary dwelling.

Electrical requirements

All occupied recreational vehicles will be required to have electrical connections. Electrical connections must be made through a dedicated outlet on a service pedestal or on the primary dwelling, which must be a minimum 20-amp, GFCI-protected, dedicated circuit. (An electrical permit is required if a circuit is not already installed.) The extension cord connection must be with an extension cord rated for the correct voltage, amperage and load as well as for exterior use. The extension cord’s length should be adequate to maintain voltage and provide an uninterrupted connection between the vehicle and the outlet connection. Multiple extension cords may not be used.

Plumbing requirements

If the occupied recreational vehicle has internal plumbing, it must be connected to potable water and sanitary sewer services.

For required plumbing utility connections:

  • Water connections may be made through a campground-style faucet connection or an anti-siphon hose bibb on the primary house.
  • Connections from the vehicle to the hose bibb must be with a flexible hose rated for potable water.
  • Sewer connections may be made through a campground-style dump station attached to the sanitary sewer line of the primary house. A plumbing permit is required for the sewer connection.
  • If the occupied recreational vehicle does not have a toilet, a DEQ-approved gray water disposal system may be allowed. A DEQ permit is required. See DEQ rules on graywater.

If the occupied recreational vehicle does not have internal plumbing, the occupants must have access to potable water, toilets and showers in the primary house.

Note: System Development Charges are not part of the electrical and plumbing permit costs.

Helpful safety tips

  • Create as much fire separation distance as possible between the dwelling and the occupied vehicle.
  • Keep three feet between electric space heaters and belongings.
  • Don’t smoke inside vehicles.
  • Install and maintain fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Make sure propane tanks are in proper working order. Store tanks outside of the living space.
  • Sewer gases can be harmful to health. If holding tanks are being used, have them serviced regularly. Check for leaks along the outside of the tank and at fittings.
  • Fresh water supply tanks should be disinfected regularly and filtered before drinking.
  • Make sure secure garbage and recycling containers are available and emptied regularly.

Be a good neighbor

  • Be courteous with off-street parking.
  • Keep noise levels down, especially at night and in outdoor areas.
  • Make sure vehicles are parked legally.
  • Look after pets and clean up behind them.

Enforcement of requirements

Enforcement is complaint-driven. Suspected code violations can be reported to the Bureau of Development Services or other local government agencies.

Regulations on long-term rental units

Additional property maintenance regulations (Portland City Code Title 29) may also apply if the occupied recreational vehicle is a rental dwelling unit and not occupied by the property owner.

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) regulations

DMV regulations only apply if the recreational vehicle is being pulled or driven on a street, road or highway.

Other resources

  • Utility assistance and housing referrals: 2-1-1
  • Linking property owners needing roommates with home-seekers:  Metro Home Share, 971-271-5195
  • Home repair assistance:  Reach Community Development, 503-231-0682
  • Free mediation of neighborhood conflict:  Resolutions Northwest, 503-595-4890

Contact

Zoning Information Line

Development Services

phone number503-823-7526

Monday through Friday from 8 am - 5 pm. Leave a message with a phone number, the project address, and your questions.

Oregon Relay Service711 Oregon Relay Service

Property Compliance Help Line

Development Services

phone number503-823-2633

Monday through Friday from 8 am - 4 pm. Leave a message with detailed information.

Oregon Relay Service711 Oregon Relay Service