I want to build a houseboat. What kind of legal restrictions or permits and the like should I be aware of?

Considerations for a houseboat...

To answer your question fully, you would need to identify where you are, but in general here are some pointers to keep in mind.

A houseboat is first and foremost, a boat, so the question becomes where are you going to keep it, i.e. where are you going to tie it up? At a marina? At a local private dock?

Are you planning to build it your self? Houseboats are usually barge like hulls with a squared super structure set upon them, as opposed to say a sailboat where the hull and deck are part of one intertwined engineered entity. The best of them seldom have the eye appeal of a large yacht, so you may well find your options as to where it's going to sit somewhat circumscribed.

In order to be comfortable, you will need a source of power, either an extensive solar array and battery set up, or a wind turbine, windmill and battery set up,or be close enough and have a proper connection to, the local power grid. The ABYC sets standards for on board power systems and the plugs and interfacing cables used to tie a boat to the power grid.

You will need to determine whether you will have your own on-board water storage tank as is common on boats that leave the dock, or rely on a hose connection, and do you live in an area where the hose connection of the dock can in fact stay on all year.

You need to be familiar with the discharge restrictions in the area you live in. On the east coast, a tremendous amount of the local harbors and bays have become, or are considering becoming, no discharge zones, which means that in order to have a head (bathroom) you will need a holding tank and a place to empty it. The holding tank will have to be sized to and plumbed to accept all your sewage and grey water runoff for the time in between pump-outs. In general terms the only places that have the facilities for emptying holding tanks, called pumpout stations in the east, are marinas, and they might not want, or, for that matter, be able to accommodate, full time liveaboards (those who make their boat a home).

I need to expand on the last part. On the West coast, I hear it is often very hard to find a slip to keep a boat and live on it. Many area don't like the idea of people who might have children living on boats in their area,cluttering up their schools, they forget that marina owners pay taxes too. On the East coast, up north, it can be very difficult to find a liveaboard marina that will accommodate you for the winter.

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Earl S. Wynn profile image

Earl S. Wynn 8 years ago from California

Awesome, and a good start! Thanks!

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