Jim Cornish and Sophie Lapointe work on her tiny house at the Stone Soup Institute in Harpswell in 2015. Lapointe, a Hampshire College student, is finishing up a year's study with Cornish in the varied skills associated with homesteading.

Fans of the tiny house movement in Maine are celebrating an addition to the state’s building codes rules creating the first statewide construction guidelines for the dwellings.

The new standards include defining a tiny house in Maine as a dwelling less than 400 square feet, allowing sleeping lofts, permitting ladder access to lofts and approving skylights as points of emergency egress.

[New rules could make it easier to own a tiny house in Maine]

Towns are still free to accept or deny tiny house construction, but Rep Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, a proponent of the new rules who has been working on the issue since he proposed a bill in 2017, said now they have legitimate uniform codes upon which to base their decisions.

Berry chose to abandon his bill and pursue the change through rulemaking, which requires no legislative approval and which he said put the rules in place quicker.

“It’s a good step that will help make tiny house living more accessible to Maine people,” said Alan Plummer, Maine representative to the American Tiny House Association. “It allows some guidelines for building and will be something municipalities can use as a code resource.”

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Lacking any statewide standards, municipalities have been free to deny building permits for tiny houses based on codes that were not developed with tiny houses in mind. In some communities, it was illegal to live in a tiny house.

The new rules now give municipal zoning and code enforcement boards existing guidelines governing tiny house construction they can incorporated into their local building codes, according to Berry.

Gov. Paul LePage signed off on new proposed tiny house rules in October, and the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code Board held a public hearings on the proposed changes in November, which is required before final rules could be implemented.

“Maine is now one of the first states to have adopted this tiny house code language,” Berry said. “This is very positive for the growth of this cottage industry and will allow more Maine homeowners the option to pursue tiny house living.”

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Berry did say the work with tiny house codes is not over and predicts future legislation and rule making with regards to tiny house septic systems and “mobile” tiny houses — structures built on wheels.

“It’s not a new idea to live in a small building but it does seem to be having new appeal to more people,” Berry said. “I absolutely believe tiny houses are here to stay [because] more people want to reduce expenses, reduce carbon emissions and this rule change will make Maine a leader in that [tiny home] movement.”

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Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.