Yurt Living: Can You Legally Live In One?


Yurts are becoming increasingly popular these days, and why not?  They’re beautiful structures that are really affordable.  It can be the ticket to living a debt free lifestyle.  The only problem is, they are not necessarily legal in many areas.

Yurts have been permitted in Hawai’i as living quarters, while California and a few other states legally allow them as auxiliary structures, meaning you are not supposed to live in them.  The rest of the country allows a yurt to be erected for only 6 months, making them only temporary structures.

With that said, there are many counties that have building codes but no enforcement and then there are the unincorporated areas that have no building codes at all.  These are the areas where living in a yurt full time will be the most hassle free.

In my experience, I have seen yurts lived in full time almost everywhere, even in wealthy enclaves such as Malibu where you would expect heavy regulation.  So let’s dig a little deeper into where you can actually live in a yurt.

Can You Keep A Yurt Up All Year?

In some jurisdictions a yurt can stay up all year, in others for only half the year. However, regularly moving a yurt can help in keeping the yurt in good shape over a longer term.

The reasoning behind this makes quite a bit of sense, as yurts can be damaged by the wind, rain, and sun they need to be repaired regularly. Repairing some parts of yurts is possible while they are assembled, but like tents there are many parts that can only be fixed or adjusted when the yurt is broken down into its components parts.

Further, the laws surrounding temporary structures are extremely strict, even in the US, because the requirements placed on them are not as strict as those on permanent buildings. This means that there are safety features, quality of living requirements, and even wear and tear limitations that yurts do not adhere to.

With all this said, the materials and construction methods used today have changed from days of old. Yurts can be made to withstand snow and wind loads and the fabric has been enhanced to be extremely UV resistant. It won’t be long before more areas allow yurts to remain standing throughout the year.

Permanent Vacation Yurts

You may be wondering how yurts that are used as a vacation location are kept up throughout the years then. These yurts experience a different type of abuse, and if needed the owners of resorts will actually disassemble them to repair some major parts of the structures.

These yurts are not used constantly by the same people, instead they are used as short locations in which family’s stay throughout the year. This means they are entirely recreational and the laws surrounding them are completely different. With communal bathroom structures usually built a few feet away from them as well.

Resorts that have yurts on them know that people are not allowed to live in them permanently, but in some unique locations you can find people that rent them from the resort for long periods of time. You will then often see these people having to move to different yurts across the resort to adhere to the laws of the country or state they are in.

Do You Need A Permit For A Yurt?

In almost ever juridiction, permits will be required to legally erect a yurt. This is not the case in unincorporated areas where no building codes are present. Thankfully, many places have already gone through the process, paving the path for easier permitting for yurt structures.

However, some places are loosening up. In Hawai’i, if you already have a permitted structure, you can put up a yurt without having to obtain any building permits

These permits will differ from state to state, country to country, which means that you will always have to consult someone first before you go barreling straight ahead. This will ensure that not only is your yurt safe to live in, but that you won’t be fined or asked to tear it down once it has been completed.

The laws for building a yurt can be extremely tricky to understand and working close with someone from your council will mean thousands in saved costs and less headaches. Even yurts that are built to be permanent cannot have people that live in them permanently, owing to many laws that govern countries and the safety of occupants.

Related: How To Maintain A Yurt In Humid ConditionsOpens in a new tab.

Are Yurts Considered A Permanent Structure?

Traditionally yurts were considered temporary structures that were moved to follow the seasons and animal migrations. Today, many people are living full time in yurts that act as permanent homes. Some areas, such as parts of Hawai’i, California and Colorado have legally allowed these structures, while others are more hesitant.

Exploring the local area where you are building and seeing what the local government considers permanent or not can greatly answer your questions.

The stronger you build your yurt the more likely it is to be considered permanent, even going as far as using the full building code of the area you live in will help your yurt be marked as an actual structure. 

This means that you could easily live in it full time without raising suspicion, many yurt owners buy properties with small houses on them, claiming to rent a room in the house while actually living in the yurt year-round.

Be aware that this is bending the law, and some authorities will frown heavily on this. However, there are a few yurt owners that have found it easiest to build their yurts as permanent as possible, then to go on one- or two-week vacations throughout the year. This leaves your yurt perfectly intact and you with a lot less worry.

Is A Yurt A Good Investment?

There are several reasons why yurts are some of the best investments you can make while looking for an easy to live in location. Because they are portable, lightweight, spacious, easy to set up, and resilient the list of investments you can make with them are endless.

Yurts are valuable vaction rental properties and even demand a premium as long term rentals for their unique appraoch to shelter. In fact, if you are considering a yurt as an investment, you may see a considerable return based upon their demand and rarity on the market.

Many yurt owners are young or single, which means they do not need a lot of space to live in and prefer to be in a space where they have easy access and full control. But, this is not the biggest investment that a yurt offers to its owners.

The ability to pack up a yurt and move it across states with ease is possibly the greatest benefit yurts offer. The added bonus of simply building a second yurt next to your current one and then connecting them with a small passage means you can endlessly expand in any direction that you want. Yurts are an investment that can make returns even 20 years after you have them packed up and put away in a shed.

Conclusion

The zoning laws and living laws of every state and country will differ, typically requiring you to have a permanent residence close by to a yurt. This means that you can live in it full time, but you will be limited in some states, while others happily turn a blind eye to your current living arrangements. 

If you want to live in a yurt year-round then it’s best make sure you follow strict building codes.

Living in a yurt is an experience, and you will be happier and wiser on the other side, just be sure there’s’ no backdraft when the wind starts blowing!

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Sean Jennings

Sean has been living simply Off-Grid in Hawai'i for over 18 years. He lives debt free on Hawai'i Island with his family and over 40 chickens. When he's not tinkering around the homestead, he's off exploring the shorelines for fish & surf.

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