Can I Have a Shipping Container in My Backyard?

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If you’re in the process of relocating and need to store a shipping container in your backyard, you may have to keep it for a while until it is ready to be shipped somewhere.

Or, maybe you’re thinking about building a container garage, shed, or workshop in your backyard, and want to know if it’s legal.

Whatever the case may be, what often comes to mind is, “can I have a shipping container in my backyard?” For the most part, the answer is “yes”, you can have a shipping container in your backyard.

However, there are some restrictions and permits you need to be aware of, which is what we’ll discuss today.

Can You Have a Shipping Container in Your Backyard?

container home in the backyard

Location

While you are normally allowed to have a shipping container on your property, there are some conditions in most places.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

Texas – In Texas, you are allowed to have a shipping container in your backyard provided it’s either:

  • Securely attached to the ground or building foundation; or
  • Secured to stakes, poles, or other anchor made of non-combustible material; and
  • The total area of the shipping container and the stakes, poles, or other anchors is no larger than 4% of the outside dimensions.

United Kingdom – In the UK, you can have a shipping container in your backyard provided it is at least 5 meters away from any road. They are classified as temporary structures and they should be exempt from planning permission requirements.

You also must ensure that the container does not adversely affect any adjoining property, and that the layout and overall appearance of the container is not detrimental to the landscape of the area. If you are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Park, they may have additional restrictions or regulations in place.

You will likely need to obtain a permit to store a shipping container on your property as well.

Bend, Oregon – In Bend, Oregon, there are strict regulations when it comes to structures and sheds in your backyard. You will need a permit from the city to store a shipping container in your backyard, but the city has no restrictions on where this may be located. However, you must still adhere to all local zoning regulations per building code.

Common Restrictions

What are some of the types of conditions sometimes found when you’re researching stipulations regarding having a backyard storage or shipping container? Below are some of them:

  • The size of the container. Some laws tell you the fixture can’t be a certain height or cover a certain amount of square feet in your yard.
  • The location of the container. Local laws, if they exist, often tell you exactly where you can and cannot place your backyard container.
  • The length of time your container will remain in your yard. You usually cannot leave your container on your property for more than 30 days at a time, and the number of times per year that you do this is also limited.

So, you usually cannot just put a shipping container on your property and leave it there. There are restrictions regarding any shipping container when it comes to size, location, and length of time that the shipping containers remain on your property. 

Fortunately, learning the answer to the question, can I have a container in my backyard, is usually easy to determine because the experts at the facility you get your shipping containers from will have all of the answers you need to proceed.

Do I Need Any Permits for a Shipping Container in My Backyard?

When you’re researching what you’ll need for any shipping container on your property, the most common document needed is a permit, which is both easy to get and very inexpensive. In most places, you won’t be allowed to simply put one of these fixtures in your backyard without completing some type of paperwork first.

Most permits simply require you to fill out basic information about the container for home use so that it is officially “registered” somewhere. They aren’t meant to make your life more complicated; they are devised so that a record of the action is recorded somewhere in an official location.

If you’re asking yourself, do I need a permit to place a shipping container in my backyard, the answer is almost always “yes,” so you might check into that so you can determine what you need to do next.

You may also need a different permit depending on the type of container it is. A storage container may need a different permit than cargo containers or shipping containers, so make certain you ask very specific questions of the authority you’re working with so that you get the right answer.

Any type of fixture in your backyard is likely going to need some type of permit or official document, but again, they are usually both inexpensive and easy to get.

Types of Permits

While placing a fixture like this in your backyard usually requires a permit, you should know that there are numerous factors that affect the type of permit that is required of you. These include the following:

  • Any deed restrictions regarding the type of container you have.
  • Whether the container is in commercial or residential areas.
  • Any zoning regulations in effect.
  • Homeowners’ association deeds that affect that area.
  • The appearance of the container.
  • How long you’d like to leave it in your backyard.
  • Whether your home is in a low-traffic or high-traffic area.
  • The proximity of your home to your neighbors.
  • Any local property zoning laws.
  • Whether the property is a guest house, office space, or a standard home.
  • Whether the lot is a construction project or something else.

When you ask yourself, can I have a shipping container in my backyard, the answer is usually a simple one because most individuals will, in fact, be able to place a container in their yard.

What about community or HOA regulations?

You will also want to check with your community or HOA as they may also have restrictions or requirements in place for storage containers of any kind, including shipping containers. You’ll want to get your property papers reviewed by a professional so that you may be prepared to deal with a potential HOA inspection.

Legal Storage of a Shipping Container in Your Backyard

There are some legal requirements related to storage containers that you may need to know about as well.  Again, you want to find out if the container is secured so that it does not pose a safety issue or damage to your property. Other legal issues you may run into include liability, zoning, and tax issues.

For example, Florida state law dictates that you cannot have any manufactured structure on your property that could be a fire hazard or damage your property.  If the shipping container is not secure or bolted to the ground, it may pose a fire hazard or damage.

So how do you legally store a shipping container safely?

Shipping containers are usually secured to the ground with bolting plates and anchors made of metal.  These types of anchor are considered ‘non-combustible. You also need to ensure that it is properly ventilated to ensure the health and safety of anyone who may be in the area.

Duration the Container is in Your Backyard

How long you plan on keeping the shipping container in your backyard also plays a factor in how easy or difficult it will be to have one. If you’re using the storage container to help you move and don’t plan on having it for very long, then you can most likely have it in your backyard.

However, if you expect to store it for a few months or more than a year, then city and state rules regarding the type of container, as well as demolition date restrictions may apply. It is also recommended that you get the container inspected by a professional to make sure everything is in good working order and there are no structural issues. This will also give you an idea of how long it will be before the shipping container can be demolished.

If your container needs to be stored for a period of time before it is shipped, you should consider getting a portable building instead. You can bolt it down, ventilate it properly, and store your container until the shipping date arrives without having to worry about legal or zoning issues.

Neighborhoods may also have certain laws regarding any fixture that is put on your property, so if you have a homeowners’ association, check with them as well as the city.

What are some of the guidelines used by cities and subdivisions regarding zoning, placement of the shipping container, and any approvals you might need before you get started?

The good news is that the facility you got the item from will be familiar with all of the laws regarding these containers, so all you really have to do is ask someone who works at that facility.

If there is a neighborhood agreement that deals with items such as shipping or storage containers, you’ll find your answer rather quickly. But it’s always best to check with the city so that you can make sure to find out if you need a building permit, a land or use permit, or anything else before you place this type of structure in your yard.

Building codes can be funny, and you have to make sure you know the laws before you purchase the item so that you don’t get asked to remove it later on.

Other Considerations

Storage and shipping containers come in all sizes and types, and some of the areas in the county or local area may have different stipulations. It’s a good idea to check both varieties of laws to make sure you don’t miss anything important. The regulations are usually similar to each other but you’ll still want to check both just to make sure you understand what is required of you.

Indeed, many things are important when learning these things, including the type of foundation, any applicable code, other projects you might be considering, and sometimes even the manufacturer, so you have to consider these things before placing a shipping container on your land.

Who Uses Shipping Containers?

A lot of individuals and businesses use shipping containers either temporarily or on a regular basis. In fact, you can’t know for sure how many facilities need shipping containers.

A good container can be used next to office space, an actual office space, shipping container homes or tiny homes, an emergency hospital, neighbors who want to share the fixture, a construction project, a research facility, a storage facility, individuals with a smaller-than-usual lot size, and even state buildings, county buildings, and buildings belonging to municipalities.

In addition, they have even been used as a shipping container home in some instances. 

These aren’t things you need to know to set up your own container in your backyard, but when it comes to the legality of having a shipping container on your property, just know that there are lots of individuals and businesses who need these shipping or storage containers at least periodically.

Different Uses for Shipping Containers

Building codes, building permits, permit expediter, and local area laws aside, there are a variety of ways you can utilize your shipping container. These include a home improvement project, relief housing for disasters, a tiny guest house, a hobby shop or spa, an addition such as an extra living area, and even a business such as a bar or a lounge.

Once again, you’ll have to check local laws that pertain to rezoning, the rights of the people working or living next to you, any approval documents that you need, any codes having to do with the designs of the structures themselves, and any zoning laws that restrict the installation, locations, and even the walls and door sizes of the structure.

This is because before you decide to use a shipping container for another purpose, especially any long-term purposes, and before you spend any hard-earned money on it, you need to know what is allowed and what isn’t allowed in your part of town.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Where Can I Research the Laws and Building Codes on Shipping Containers?

A: Check with any local or town government office first, or ask the employees at the facility where you got your container.

Q: Can Any Structures Go on My Property?

A: No. Things such as garden sheds and many other family possessions are usually alright, but with shipping containers, you’ll have to be certain about any rules and regulations specifically pertaining to the structure.

Q: Can I Put a Shipping Container on the Property of Any Dwelling?

A: More than likely, you can, but bigger cities and more crowded areas usually have strict rules regarding the size and exact location of the container.

Q: Do the Manufacturers of the Shipping Container Have Any Requirements?

A: Not really. The laws and rules are usually established by the communities themselves and have nothing to do with who made the fixture.

Conclusion

Although the manufacturer of the shipping container you choose makes a high-quality product with excellent flooring, door designs, and overall design, the local laws are what you should consider most important. Yes, they are looking out for potential hazards, but hazards aren’t their only concern.

They also want to record what is going on with your property so that no code is broken and nothing is placed in your yard that can be considered a project that becomes an eyesore. 

In addition to these reasons, many others deal with the legality of the container so that the container you use doesn’t become just one big headache for both you and the town. Rules and regulations must be adhered to, so the requirements for setting up a shipping container or other type of container in your backyard is a serious matter.

Ryan Stetson

Ryan Stetson

Currently own two 20' and 40' containers converted into an office/workshop. Having worked in the shipping industry for 6 years, my goal is to share my personal experiences as well as connect potential container buyers with suppliers around the US.

Ryan Stetson

Ryan Stetson

Currently own two 20' and 40' containers converted into an office/workshop. Having worked in the shipping industry for 6 years, my goal is to share my personal experiences as well as connect potential container buyers with suppliers around the US.

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