Is it Legal to Live Off Grid?

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Many people make the bold move to go off-grid to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle and reduce their carbon footprint. By building homes with solar panels and wind turbines, off-grid residents attempt to be self-sustaining without relying on public utilities. Not only are people, who choose to live the off-grid (if done properly), reducing their use of fossil fuels and other hazards to the environment, but they may also be happier residents over all.

In theory, one could assume that an off-grid lifestyle would be widely accepted across the country, however, some places make living off-grid illegal.
Getting Permission

When daydreaming about living off-grid, some people may imagine a utopian slice of land within a forest of pines and a pristine water feature like a lake or stream. In reality, to live off-grid, one cannot simply choose a plot of land in a desolate place and start building. Even if you vow to live sustainably, you still need permission to live on the land and be a respectful resident. Once you find a spot where you may want to build your off-grid home, you’ll need to call county building authority to see if there are any restrictive codes or legal binding obligations written into the property.

Additionally, you’ll need to know whether or not you have legal access or right to use roads, paths, or even waterways. For instance, even if you don’t have any neighbors that live nearby or none at all, it doesn’t mean that some of the surrounding land isn’t already owned by someone else.
Are You Living Within City Limits?

Depending on where you live, the piece of property that you’re eyeing may still be within a city’s limits, even if it’s in the wilderness.

Meet the Truitts, of Huntsville, AL, who want to live a self-sustaining lifestyle by living in a trailer “out of sight, out of mind” and using solar panels for heating and electricity, rainwater for a water source, and a composting toilet. According to the city of Huntsville, the Truitts are violating city laws and ordinances. The city states that no one can reside in a trailer unless in a designated trailer park and their use of a composting toilet is not sanitary and violates state health codes.

An important thing to consider when living off-grid: while many people choose to go off-grid to “get away from it all” and avoid authority, if you want to enjoy the dream you’ve worked so hard to fulfill, you need to make sure that your building and planning complies with city and state laws. It’s easier to do it right the first time rather than risk losing it all.

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