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Home Forums General Discussion How go off grid legally in the USA?

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    So, I’ve been planning on going off grid for a long time now. I’ve been doing homework for years, saving money, and right now I live in a 50/50 situation (not totally off grid, but partially).

    I basically have everything that I need and I’m ready to do it.

    There is only one thing stopping me. That one thing is how to do it legally?

    The last thing that I want is to spend 5 or 10 years perfecting my natural paradise just to have some county official come and tell me that it’s all illegal and I have to tear it all down.

    I’m looking to go as natural as possible, using whatever recycled stuff I can find. Basically like Jaime Mantzel (I’m sure you guys must have heard of him).

    In other words, nothing that I build is ever going to be to code, and I don’t want it to have to be.

    The reason why is that as soon as code gets involved, it has the following effects:

    A. I’m just straight up not even allowed to build or have what I want or need.

    B. I can build it, but it will cost more money than I will ever have.

    However, if I can just use common sense instead… I can build things that are cheap, highly effective, nature friendly, and will be almost completely made from recycled materials.

    So… how do I do it?

    How do I go off grid legally without risking loosing everything that I’ve spent the last 5 or 6 years learning how to build?

    Right now I’m looking at Northern Florida (because I love good clean ocean and the heat). My current plan is to buy 20 or 30 acres of forest and go live with dead in the center of it.

    How can I do this and be successful at it (legally… I know how to survive)


    So I realized that maybe I should tell some things about what it is that I want to do / Build.

    I want to have modular housing that is built out of Cargo containers (atleast two. One for living, and one for a workshop)

    Probably a few 20ft high water towers (for gravity fed water systems).

    A large green house (though it will probably just be several smaller modular things … no need to go building some huge building).

    A few electric solar panels (not that many, I have very small electrical requirements)

    Passive solar heating panels (I’d rather just collect heat straight from the sun)

    A 12ft satellite dish (for wireless internet and other various communications.)

    A run way for an ultralight (just because that would be SO awesome! The whole point of doing this is freedom and enjoying life).

    Eventually I’d like to put rope bridges up in the trees so that you can enjoy the entire property Swiss Family Robinson style.

    So, once again the point is trying to figure out ways that I can do this legally, but costing at little as possible.

    The good news is that once I buy my property and move on to it, my cost of living will be pretty close to 0, so I can then focus all of my time and effort into making all of this happen.

    On the down side, even if I live dead in the center of 30 acres of forest, someone is eventually going to notice this stuff on Google Earth… not to mention the ultralight flying around and landing in the woods. So I think that hoping that no one will notice me is not very realistic :-/

    desert deb

    Just check any property requirement before you buy. There are still places out here that dont really care or have set systems that eliminate some of the requirements. You need to know exactly what you can do there before you sign. Look at county land restrictions and state restrictions. Florida may have several. you should be able to get most of that from internet. Good luck.


    What state do you live in? In Arkansas if you live in the county, meaning not within city limits and you are not in a housing development where you have signed some contract with restrictions.. then you may do as you please, except for septic in which case you can get an exemption from that even if you have more than 10 acres. Of course if your structure falls in on someone while they are in it then you are still liable.

    You may want to check out some of my off grid and owner building articles on my blog.


    I mean “even, if you have more than 10 acres” its actually only if you have more than 10 acres


    Thanks for the info guys :-)

    Is anyone familiar with Florida? I really don’t care where I live in Florida, but I am trying to meet 4 conditions:

    #1. Hot as hell! I love it hot and I really hate being cold.

    #2. A place where it rains a lot (rain is very useful, as I’m sure you all know)

    #3. Living in the forest (Because I love the forest for many reasons)

    #4. Be within 30 to 45min driving distance to good clear Ocean (because I love diving)

    I know that I might have to be a little flexible on #4… but it can happen.

    In the past I found a 14 acre property that was straight forest and rated for timber use for $25k 30 min North of Panama City Beach. I seriously considered buying it, but it had no legal access :-/

    Also, how to I check up on the local laws? I really know nothing about where to even begin, or what to look for :-/


    If it were me I’d do southern Georgia before I’d live in Florida.. Its your choice though. Personally I like mountains. So northern Georgia would be even better.


    So tell me about Southern Georgia. What are the pros and cons there?

    Do it have any nice clear ocean for Diving?


    So I’ve been reading alot of online Gov docs recently about various laws in various states. Any idea where, or how to look for laws that would pertain to home steading?

    I’m not even sure what to put in the search box, or how to make sure that I find everything.


    Southern Georgia is a little more hilly than Florida which is totally flat except of landfills. Though Florida has some very small hill areas on the gulf side, most of it is totally flat and about 10 to 20 feet above sea level. And in South GA, you are still within reasonable driving distance of Florida attractions.

    I don’t think in the USA you can “homestead” anymore.. if so it might be in the desert areas in the Rockies. I hear you can still homestead in some areas of Canada.


    Thanks for the info :-)

    I’m also starting to think about other countries as well. Does anyone have anyone info or suggestions about warm countries on or near the Ocean that have 2nd world conditions… and won’t murder me for being a white American?


    I live in florida and could not imagine going off grid here due to the constant hurricanes and flooding – especially if your looking to be located near the coasts. plus you say you like it hot but florida is unbelievably hot and humid in the summer making it nearly impossible to enjoy being outdoors . other than those things i really wouldnt worry too much about code as long as your away from city limits and away from neighbors who would care to report you. pretty much anything goes in rural florida , people live in condemed buildings and mobiles theres “tent cities” everywhere- I live in hernando county and it gets pretty cold here in the winter nights sometimes dropping to 22. If you go to the keys you will find hot weather year round but again with hurricanes – big problems and mandatory evacuations (in the keys) .. also if you plan on getting land here you might want to consider the fact that a good percentage of this population down here are racist pigs.. new school kkk is unfortunately very much alive here in florida , which is one of many reasons why we a packing up and heading away from here… so if you havent changed your mind about FL lol , then i would suggest river land (suwannee ,withalacochee , weeki wachee and crystal river- might be expensive but its truly paradise very heavily forest with sprakling clean manatee and otter filled fresh water rivers.. Good luck in your search , me and my hubby are in the process of scouting out land in CA to go semi-off grid on acreage with a 30ft + travel trailer. We are also considering getting a realtor since there is sooo much footwork with finding the right land- is it accessible , does it have water for tapping into , is there legalities tied up with the property and all about codes and zoning- which is hard for us- we have chickens and a pet pig and we plan to do a 215 homestead for ourselves as well.

    good site i have been using for cross checking properties and their code/ordinances – they have a search by state , city or township


    Do yourself a favor and hire an architect to help you with code compliance drawings…finding an architect who is off-grid friendly is going to be a trick (you could also get a structural engineer to help you on this.

    We built our off-grid home 4 years ago as a pole type structure using rough cut timber. We would not have been able to do this without an Architect to sign the plans for us. Stamped drawing, while not required, typically indicate to the codes enforcement official that you are putting some effort and thought into what you are doing and are going to build a safe structure.

    (We built our entire house for about $70, and last year added solar for about $12). We did almost all of the labor ourselves or with the help of friends. We built on a 10acre parcel of land in an area with no building codes above and beyond the NYS codes, in an area with a lot of hunting camps…we just built a camp instead of a house, with no power. (We did put in septic, although we lived the whole first year without running water, septic or any electric power. It can be done…even with kids.


    Laws? We don’t need no stinking laws!!!

    OK you need to be realistic when you go off-grid. There are very few counties where you can build whatever you want without building codes so you need to check the county codes before buying land and building unless you want legal issues.

    BUT there are still many rural counties that have few or no building codes and some only require an approved septic and water system. You can get around those codes with an approved composting toilet and even rain water harvesting in some places.

    The best thing to do is to find land in small rural counties that already have off-grid homes like yours and a county gov that will work with you.

    OR you can build and take your chances. I have had several legal battles with my county and won them all because my place is grandfathered in but that is not the case for most people.

    It may also be better to buy an existing home fixer upper bare bones that has already been approved for residential use and then convert that to off-grid living.

    You can get ideas on my lifestyle at:



    LaMar points out a very neat solution. When someone moves out and no one moves right in the power utility cuts the power and if applicable the gas company shuts of the service. However the place is already legally conforming or else grandfathered unless the building is condemned. You can still buy or lease the place and move in. So what if you never get around to asking for the power to get reconnected. Best of all the place will normally have septic and maybe water well ready to go. In a pinch you can buy a cheap genset to get going and worry about the fine details later as time and money permits. As long as you pay any land taxes they can’t throw you out.

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