11 Places in the U.S. With No Building Codes
These rural parts of the country have chosen not to adopt a building code, making them ideal for tiny homes and other alternative residential designs.
Building codes are an important safeguard to have in place to protect people from dangerous construction practices and to ensure buildings can handle certain weather conditions. However, they also present a potential obstacle that can inhibit the building of certain types of homes. For example, some building codes have minimum square footage requirements that make it impossible to have a tiny home. Building codes are also often slow to keep up with new home-building advancements, making it difficult to incorporate innovative green technologies.
Sometimes building codes can cause long delays in construction, as builders are forced to wait for inspectors to visit the home. The need to constantly have to seek approval through permits can also slow a project to a crawl, dramatically increasing its budget. In these cases, it can make sense to build in a part of the country that isn’t governed by building codes.
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Building Codes by State
Building codes vary by state. Some on our list have statewide building codes and give their local governments the ability to opt out of adopting them. Others in this group have no statewide building codes at all, turning the power over to local governments to enact (or not enact) their own codes.
In most cases, state and local governments will only exempt residential construction in unincorporated areas from building codes. Most commercial buildings and nearly all types of construction in cities and most towns are governed by building codes.
Alabama enacted statewide building codes; however, these building codes only apply to state buildings, schools, and private commercial buildings, such as motels and movie theaters. The state leaves it up to local counties to decide if their unincorporated areas should be governed by these codes. Many opt to have no local code enforcement whatsoever.
While most of Arizona is governed by building codes, there is one place that is not: Greenlee County is the sole county in Arizona with no residential building codes. In fact, the county says it does not provide recommendations for building loads, nor does it review plans and inspect construction. Basically, you’re on your own.
Colorado does not have a statewide building code, leaving it up to local governments whether or not to adopt their own codes. Many counties don’t have codes, and of those, several don’t require building permits either, including Mineral, Sedgwick, Baca, and the unincorporated parts of Delta County.
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Mississippi enacted its first statewide building codes in 2014 as a means of enforcing stricter guidelines to protect homes during hurricanes. However, the state did give counties the opportunity to opt out if they chose. Two counties—Warren and Adams—decided not to adopt the state’s building codes.
The Show-Me State has no state building codes. Many unincorporated areas in Missouri’s 114 counties have not adopted building codes, and they don’t require building permits. Multiple counties and cities have created codes to accommodate tiny homes and container homes, including St. Louis, where dozens of tiny homes help decrease homelessness among veterans in the area. Lawrence County has no building codes whatsoever.
Illinois does not have a state building code, although the state does enforce a plumbing code statewide, as well as a Life Safety Code, a set of fire regulations designed to provide residents a reasonable amount of protection from fire. While many of the state’s local governments do have building codes, there are several counties in the southern part of Illinois that do not, including Woodford, Pope, Ogle, and Gallatin counties.
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While North Dakota does have a statewide building code, local governments can choose not to enact the code—and many have. These mainly include the state’s most sparsely populated counties, including Steele, Golden Valley, Sheridan, Slope, Oliver, Logan, Towner, Burke, Dickey, and Emmons counties. Just keep in mind that some incorporated parts of these counties do enforce building codes.
Similar to other states, Tennessee has a statewide building code but allows counties to opt out for their unincorporated areas. One nice service that Tennessee offers is that it allows residents to request a fire marshal to inspect a home even in areas that have no code, which can be crucial for those attempting to secure financing or homeowners insurance.
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While the Lone Star State does follow globally agreed-upon codes, such as the International Building Code, adherence to these codes for residential buildings does not apply to all unincorporated areas. Counties aren’t required to adopt the state building code, and they are also free to make amendments to those codes if they do adopt them. As a result, many of the 254 counties in the state either have no building code or very relaxed codes.
West Virginia enacted a statewide building code in 1989 to eliminate the confusing patchwork collection of building codes that varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. While it requires local governments to follow the statewide building code if they choose to implement a code, they also have the choice to opt out entirely. As a result, many counties in West Virginia don’t have a building code, including Pendleton, Monongalia, Pocahontas, and Preston counties. The state fire marshal’s office does review building plans to ensure they conform to fire codes.
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Wyoming has a statewide building code. However, many of the 23 counties in the state have opted out of them. These jurisdictions mainly include the most lightly populated counties in the state, including Hot Springs, Weston, Crook, Park, and Johnson counties.