Accessory Dwelling/Tiny Home | Rocky Mount NC (2023)

What is an Accessory Dwelling? or What is a Tiny Home?

An Accessory dwelling is a self-contained dwelling unit created either by converting part of or adding on to an existing detached single-family home, or by building a separate dwelling unit into a new home on a single-family lot. Both the accessory dwelling and the primary residence must have a separate outside entrance or an entrance from a common entryway.

A Tiny Home is a residential, single-family detached dwelling, that is a one dwelling unit occupying by one (1) family. It cannot be physically attached to any other primary structure on the lot and may be subject to size minimums and maximums. (This term does not include manufactured homes on wheels).

What is the difference between the two dwelling types?

Accessory dwelling units and tiny homes do resemble, in some ways, mainly in terms of size range, set back placement, and in construction requirements and type. But the main difference between the two dwelling units in Rocky Mount, comes down to whether there is a “primary” home on the lot. For an accessory dwelling to exist there must first exist a primary dwelling.

A new construction tiny home can be erected on a single lot if it is built with foundation and adheres to the North Carolina Building Code or must be certified under the NC Modular Construction Program standards for single-family homes.

Click here to view our Code of Ordinances Sec. 507. – on Accessory Uses.

Click here to view our Code of Ordinances Article IV. on Building Construction Standards

Are Accessory Dwelling and Tiny Homes allowed in Rocky Mount?


Accessory dwellings have long been a part of the Rocky Mount land development code and are allowed as long it meets the specific LDC stipulations.

Tiny homes fall under single-family dwellings and have recently been added to the LDC to accommodate rising interest. Both dwelling unit types must meet NC Residential Building Code or be certified under the NC Modular Construction Program standards for single-family homes if it is a modular home (i.e., pre-constructed kit). Be sure to familiarize yourself with our Code of Ordinances to meet zoning, code, and building requirements.

What type of “use” is an Accessory Dwelling and Tiny Home?

When constructed by the requirements listed in our Code of Ordinances, these dwelling units have a residential use only. The following zoning districts allow accessory dwellings and tiny homes:

  1. Residential Districts A-1, R-15, R-10, R-8, R-6, R-6 MFA, MHP, PDR.
  2. Transitional, Business and Industrial Districts: O-I, O-I (2), B-1

Click here to view our Zoning District Classifications and explanations.

Click here to view Sec. 503. on Zoning Use Tables

Is a permit required to build an Accessory Dwelling or Tiny Home?


When building an accessory dwelling or tiny home in the permitted zoning districts, you must apply for and obtain a Building Permit from the City. We recommended that you obtain a survey of your lot to ensure that you are meeting all specific setback requirements and clearing utility connections (water, sewer, gas, electric) for your build.

Click here to access the Building Permit Application and other Documents and Forms needed.

Are there License Requirements to build an Accessory Dwelling or Tiny Home?

If the total construction cost of your project is estimated at $30,000 and above (including plumbing, HVAC and electrical installations), pursuant to North Carolina law, you are required to hire a General Contractor (GC). Owner/builders may be exempted from this requirement and must submit an Owner Exemption Affidavit from.

We strongly recommend you schedule a Pre-Application Conference to gain insight on some of the specific requirements related to you and your project.

Click here to learn to more about the NC Licensing Board for General Contractors (NCLBGC) and laws that may affect you and your project.

What are the size requirements in Rocky Mount for Accessory Dwellings or Tiny Homes?

Being that these two dwelling types do resemble in many ways, the difference between them is still the primary dwelling or main house on the lot. The dwelling must meet the minimums listed below:

  1. In conjunction with primary dwelling, a lot is allowed only one (1) Accessory Dwelling and it must not exceed fifty (50) percent of the gross floor area of the primary. Click here to view 507. Accessory Uses of the LDC.
  2. ex) If the principle dwelling sqft = 1200 total floor area; the accessory dwelling cannot exceed 600 sqft of total floor area.
  3. A dwelling is considered a Tiny Home when it is constructed with at least 320 square feet of floor area (tiny home square footage typically does not exceed 1000 sqft). Its foundation and habitable spaces are subsequently subject to minimums set in the 2018 North Carolina Residential Building Code. If it is a pre-constructed dwelling, it must meet requirements set in the NC Modular Construction Program and 2018 North Carolina Residential Building Code. The most strenuous of either code takes precedence when regulating.

Click here to view the “Tiny Homes in NC Memo” released by the Office of State Fire Marshall to better understand the minimum tiny home construction requirements set by the NC Department of Insurance.

Are Separate Utilities Required for Accessory Dwelling and Tiny Homes?

Well, yes and no.

If you desire to construct an accessory dwelling that is wholly intended to be leased, rented, or sold, then yes, the dwelling must have separate utilities (sewer, water, electric, and gas). But, if the accessory dwelling is designed to be connected to the principle dwelling or if it is a standalone accessory dwelling and will not be leased, rented, or sold, then no, the dwelling does not need to be set up with separate utilities.

Tiny homes are essentially classified as single-family residence and are constructed with all utility connections when initially built.

We strongly recommend you schedule a Pre-Application Conference to gain insight on some of the specific requirements related to you and your project.

Click here to view the Chapter 21 – Utilities, of the Rocky Mount Code of Ordinances

Click here to view the Nash County Public Utilities page.

Am I restricted from building an Accessory Dwelling or Tiny Home in a Historic District?

Well, yes and no.

In Rocky Mount, accessory dwellings are allowed in historic districts but are

subject to design specifications in conjunction with the primary dwelling. A Certificate of Appropriateness must be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) which sets review guidelines for the district and those guidelines may be more restrictive than the underlying zoning.

If you are interested in building a tiny home in a historic district, you must submit a Certificate of Appropriateness. Any “major work” must be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and is approved on a case-by-case bases.

Click here to learn more about our Historic Preservation districts, review guidelines and the Certificate of Appropriateness or contact HPC staff by phone at 252-972-1108.

What are the benefits of Accessory Dwellings and Tiny Homes?

The lack of affordable housing is currently a nationally recognized crisis, which has affected many members in our community. Recent changes to the LDC were implemented to provide options in housing throughout the city because accessory dwellings and tiny homes have the potential to increase the city’s housing stock over traditionally built housing. These dwelling types provide options for equitable access to affordable living space throughout the city for low-income families, renters, aging parents, prevent displacement and could increase property values.

What is the process?

1st Step:

Attain a survey of your lot to ensure that there no encroachments and to be sure your accessory dwelling or tiny home meets setback requirements. Contact the register of deeds of in your county to view or request real estate records of your lot.

Edgecombe County Register of Deeds

Nash County Register of Deeds

2nd Step:

Apply for a Building Permit in person or online and submit your architectural plans to our Development Services One Stop Shop via or send via fax to (252)972-1590. If changes to your architectural plans are needed, you will be notified to make the needed revisions. Resubmission of your plans is then required, with the suggested revisions being complete. Contact our Construction Development Coordinator or our Development Liaison if you need more guidance with your project. You may also request a Pre-Application Conference to receive feedback and guidance regarding your project.

Click here to view the Building Permit Application.

Click here to view our Development Procedures.

3rd Step:

Once your architectural plans have been approved and you have been issued a building permit, you are now ready to being construction on your project.


Do I need a permit to build a tiny house on my property in NC? ›

Tiny homes must be permitted by local jurisdiction, including zoning requirements. Plumbing fixtures must be connected to an approved sewage disposal method. North Carolina does not allow storage tanks. The home must contain a habitable space, which is a space for living, sleeping, eating, or cooking.

Can I put a tiny home in my backyard in NC? ›

The tiny home and its foundation must comply with the North Carolina State Residential Code. Tiny homeowners must get permits from the local jurisdiction. Tiny homes must meet the zoning and setback requirements and any community protective covenant requirements.

What are the building codes for tiny houses in NC? ›

Habitable space and hallways in tiny houses shall have a ceiling height of not less than 6 feet 8 inches. Bathrooms, toilet rooms and kitchens shall have a ceiling height of not less than 6 feet 4 inches.

Can you legally turn a shed into a house in NC? ›

If you plan to use your shed for storage, hobby work, or as a workshop, you may not need to obtain a permit. However, if you intend to use the shed as an office space or guest house, you may need to obtain the appropriate permits from your local zoning department.

What is the largest size a tiny house can be? ›

The biggest a tiny house can be is between 400 and 1,000 square feet (37 - 93 m2), with the majority sitting under 400 square feet. However, there are no rules that say you have to stay below a specific number, unless you will be building on a trailer.

Can you live off grid in North Carolina? ›

Is It Legal To Live Off The Grid In North Carolina? Yes, it is legal to live off the grid in North Carolina. However, there are some regulations that must be followed when choosing to do so. You will need to acquire a permit to build or expand your living space and make sure that you comply with all local zoning laws.

What is considered a dwelling in NC? ›

A town's zoning ordinance requires that all structures within a residential zoning district meet the definition of “dwelling unit.” The town ordinance defines “dwelling unit” to mean, “a building, or portion thereof, designed and arranged and used for living quarters for one or more persons with cooking facilities, but ...

What counts as a tiny home? ›

What Qualifies As A Tiny House? Although tiny houses seem pretty self-explanatory, they're more specifically defined as any home that falls under a maximum of 500 square feet. They can also be built on either a mobile platform or a permanent house foundation.

Are tiny houses allowed in Raleigh? ›

In a unanimous vote, the Raleigh city council approved the use of tiny homes in city limits. RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- In a unanimous vote, the Raleigh city council approved the use of tiny homes in city limits.

How many square feet does a house have to be to be considered a tiny house? ›

CNBC states that tiny homes are those under 600 square feet, while Quicken Loans defines a tiny home as one that is 500 square feet or less. Most would consider a house up to 600 square feet a tiny home. Tiny homes can be built on permanent foundations or trailers so that they may be moved from one location to another.

How big can a tiny house be on foundation? ›

That said, if you really do want a rule of thumb, it would seem that tiny houses usually range between around 60 and 400 square feet. You could possibly extend this range up to around 1000 square feet, but you're venturing into “small house” territory here.

What state is easiest to build a tiny house? ›

Based on an unweighted system awarding points for opportunities to easily live tiny, the top five states where going tiny is a bit easier than the rest are California, Oregon, Texas, North Carolina and Florida.

What happens if you build without a permit in NC? ›

Failing to obtain a permit when required may result in substantial fines or being ordered to remove the offending project or incur costs to certify compliance with the applicable codes; it depends. What may surprise licensees is how many seemingly minor improvements/repairs may require a permit.

What's the biggest shed I can have without planning? ›

You don't normally need Building Regulations Consent for a basic shed or outbuilding provided it's under 15 square metres and has no sleeping accommodation inside. For further advice check the Planning Portal's advice on outbuildings here.

What is the largest shed without a permit? ›

The quick and simple answer is: you usually don't need a permit if the shed is 120 square feet or less. In California, most jurisdictions have adopted the 120 square foot rule. If your shed area is larger than 120 square feet, it needs a building permit.

What requires a building permit in NC? ›

You need a building permit for all work that involves the construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, movement to another site, removal, or demolition of any building or structure.

What is the legal definition of a tiny house? ›

First, a quick primer on the tiny-house movement: To officially be considered tiny, the house has to be 400 square feet or less (excluding lofts), according to the International Code Council. Tiny living also comes in two different forms: movable (on wheels) or stationary (on a foundation).

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