Shipping Container Zoning, Permits, and Building Codes in 2024

Regardless of what you use your shipping container for, you’ll have to be familiar with any local and state regulations, zoning requirements, and code requirements first; in other words, any permits or other paperwork you’ll need to make everything “official” according to local government.

Each town and municipality has its own requirements when it comes to this paperwork, but the good news is that it is easy to find out what you’ll need to do before placing the shipping container on your property.

Types of Regulations You Might Run Into

Although each community has its own restrictions and compliance laws, there are some basic rules that apply to nearly all of them. Even different neighborhoods have regulations you must abide by, but a basic permit is one document required almost everywhere. In addition, other requirements may also include the following:

Zoning of Property

With rare exceptions, most cities and towns in the United States have zoning restrictions, which is why certain businesses are kept out of residential areas and why you tend to see separate areas for homes and for businesses. City governments usually set building standards that apply to every structure in the area, and these apply to all areas of any structures on the property, including plumbing, landscaping, and separate rules for mobile homes and standard homes.

Property zoning restrictions vary from one municipality to another, so it’s good to check any regulations required in the different areas of town.

Permits and Building Codes

Homes and businesses both usually need permits to accommodate any building codes in effect in the area. Even for shipping container construction, you usually need a permit before you start building. There is a certain legality to each object you place in your yard or business site, but any local government authority can help you determine which permits you need and which ones you don’t.

If you’re simply buying or leasing a shipping container and placing it on your property, the regulations might be a little different. In this case, however, you can ask the people from who you bought or leased the container because they will be familiar with any steps you have to take before placing it on your property.

Codes Pertaining to Certain Types of Houses

A regular house is usually treated differently than a mobile, modular, or manufactured home, and the regulations pertaining to these types of homes are sometimes different than the ones for a standard home. In fact, it can even be difficult to determine the differences between these three types of houses, but sometimes the description of building regulations can help.

To get this description, you can ask the manufacturer of the home or even check with state authorities or even a local building association that is familiar with different manufacturing and zoning regulations. You may need an official description in writing for manufactured or modular homes anyway before you even place it on your lot.

HOA Rules and Deed Restrictions

When it comes to the zoning code, building code, or any land or use permit that you need, you’ll have to check with your homeowners’ association (HOA) rules, which may in fact need to be adhered to in addition to any laws required by states or local authorities. Some of the requirements may include the right building permit, a permanent or temporary use permit, specialized building permits for unique homes, putting a container in your backyard, or any other permit made by area governments.

Deed restrictions can usually be found in your HOA documents and are often affected by things such as the square feet of the shipping container, as well as the construction of the structure, HUD code requirements, and even odd factors such as the landscaping and the exact location on your lot.

If all of this sounds complicated, not to worry because it really isn’t. In fact, shipping container laws are usually not that complicated because when it comes to shipping containers, it is mostly city, local, and HOA requirements that you need to know. Even if the container is a storage container or even a container home, it is usually localized authorities that require certain permits for any container on your property.

Another consideration is whether the container on your property is permanent or temporary. Rules and regulations usually contain specific lengths of time that you can place the container on your property, and this will tell you if you need a permit and if so, what type you will need for your shipping containers.

What If You Get Confused?

Although discovering whether you need a permit and learning the required rules and regulations is relatively simple, if it feels overwhelming to you, do not get concerned because you can always use the services of a permit expediter. What is a permit expediter? A permit expediter is someone who does the legwork for you and makes sure that all paperwork is filled out correctly and all building regulations are adhered to. 

The amount you pay this person will vary depending on your area, but an experienced permit expediter is always worth the cost you have to pay to use these services.

Using a permit expediter also reduces the amount of time you spend on the various documents you need because this person does the work for you, making it both faster and much simpler on you.

All Types of Containers are Possible

Whether you need a storage container or shipping container, or even a container home, paying attention to the property restrictions, any building permit required by cities or states, and anything else required by local authorities makes good sense. If you use your container as a shipping container home, either as a single family dwelling or just for storage purposes, you may need even more permits and documents.

Shipping container homes are not super common but they are gaining in popularity, and even the building and construction of these structures often have to be regulated and approved. The area you live in and even the neighbors you have may affect whether or not you get the right building or location permit. No compliance with these laws and ordinances may mean you will be denied your containers, so it’s best to go “by the book” and get all of the permits you need.

You also need the most updated building permit or temporary use permit as well because when it comes to shipping or storage containers, local authorities or the building inspector sometimes decide that the building code or the building regulations need to be changed or updated at the spur of the moment. In this case, you’ll need to check with your local government and view the most recent rules and laws regarding the building, construction, or simple placement of shipping containers on your lot.

Aesthetic Appeal

When it comes to container homes, shipping containers, or even a storage container, its aesthetic appeal is often the reason for the rules and regulations put forth by the local authorities. This isn’t just a structure on your property or lot; shipping or storage containers can be an eyesore to your neighbors because let’s face it, anyone driving by the building is able to view your shipping container with ease.

Property owners like these types of laws because it affects the values of their own properties, which is one of the reasons why approval is often needed before you place any type of shipping container or standard storage container on your lot. The approval isn’t hard to get as long as you abide by their requirements, and most of the requirements for these types of properties are easy to follow.

In addition, rezoning often occurs to change the rules and laws for shipping containers on people’s property, so again, you need to be aware of the most recent updates in the laws, which you can often find in the most recent posts on the local or state government’s website or blog.

Things That Affect Storage Containers, Shipping Containers Homes, and Shipping Containers

If you’re curious about the things that affect the shipping container home or storage container you’re wanting on your property, area and state laws list things such as:

  • Any local or community laws
  • The foundation of the structure
  • The trailer chassis, if a trailer is used
  • How others will view the structure
  • If the shipping container is on a commercial work site or construction site

As you can see, both homeowners and business owners utilize these shipping containers, both for personal use and to help a project go more smoothly. Some people use these shipping containers for storage only, while others use them as a temporary room or home. This is why the laws regulating their use vary depending on how you plan to use them, among other things.

The Many Advantages of the Right Shipping or Storage Containers

A properly placed container can be used for a variety of purposes, including basic storage and even a home. There is certainly a lot of storage space in all of these containers, but since it is often a storage container for a work project or work site, it provides numerous advantages, including:

  • It is very affordable.
  • You don’t need a large area to place it on your land.
  • It is easy to build and to use.
  • You have a lot of freedom with the building design of the containers.
  • Many are environmentally friendly.

The right storage container offers lots of uses, and local and area laws are, for the most part, very easy to abide by and to follow.

All Legal Requirements are Not the Same

Again, it’s important that you determine which shipping container zoning laws and restrictions apply to the container you’ve chosen before you place it on your property. This applies whether you intend to use the container as a home, a storage unit, or even a commercial storage structure. Local and area authorities have rights reserved, so they can receive payments from you and in return, make sure you agree to all of their storage container stipulations.

“All rights reserved” is a legal definition that gives local and state governments the right to place certain stipulations on storage and shipping containers, including their size, the areas they cover, and even their color.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Where Do I Start When Looking for These Laws?

    Check with municipal governments, county governments, state governments, and even the federal government. Federal and state governments often have no specific rules or laws regarding shipping or storage containers, but it’s good to check with them anyway.

  2. How Much Do the Various Local Areas Differ?

    Stipulations for storing and other types of containers vary quite a bit between the different areas, which is why you need to check with the authorities in your own area to make sure you understand what they expect from you.

  3. Can You Use Storage Structures for Any Purpose?

    No, you cannot. There are numerous uses that are considered illegal to the authorities, so this is one of the things you need to check on when obtaining permits and other documents.

  4. Do the Areas People Live in Make a Difference?

    Areas that are more crowded and closer to the city usually have stricter laws and rules. If you haven’t yet found a place to live, this is something you might want to take into consideration first.


A good storage container can be a true miracle-worker, especially for people who need extra storage space because there isn’t room for extra storage in their home. Structures made for shipping or storage make great additions to your home or office, but keep in mind that there are numerous stipulations and applicable laws that can vary from one town to another.

Fortunately, finding these things out is not difficult, and if you use an expediter to help you do the legwork, you can have that permit and any other documents in no time. Shipping and storage structures are also used as homes and even playhouses, so it’s easy to think up great uses for them. When you use them for storage, they can hold a lot of your household items because their sizes vary so much.

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  • 4 Responses

      1. Hey Denise,

        That’s awesome! If you fill out our customization quote form, we’ll have a builder reach out to you :).


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