Mississippi has cheap land, a low cost of living, and lots of rural land. Because of this, it might seem like a good place for off-grid living.
But, before you start looking for property, be sure you know the off grid laws of Mississippi. It might be illegal to live the type of off-grid life you want in the state!
Is Off-Grid Living Legal in Mississippi?
Off-grid living is usually legal in rural parts of Mississippi. Laws requiring you to connect to the municipal sewer system would make it illegal to go completely off-grid in more developed areas. On top of that, the state still hasn’t updated laws to reflect newer off-grid technology, so you might have problems getting permits for certain systems.
Building Codes in Mississippi
In 2014, Mississippi passed a law that required all counties to enact one of the versions of the uniform building codes listed below.
- 2012, 2015, 2018 International Building Code
- 2012, 2015, 2018 International Existing Building Code
- 2012, 2015, 2018 International Fire Code
- 2012, 2015, 2018 International Fuel Gas Code
- 2012, 2015, 2018 International Mechanical Code
- 2012, 2015, 2018 International Plumbing Code
- 2012, 2015, 2018 International Residential Code
- 2012, 2015, 2018 International Energy Conservation Code
However, the law also allowed counties to opt-out of building codes (they had to do it by 2014). Warren County and Adams County opted out (there may be others I am unaware of). However, counties can adopt or update their building codes at any time, so check local regulations!
Zoning Laws in Mississippi
Zoning laws in Mississippi vary on a county-by-county basis. These laws ultimately determine what you are allowed to do on your property. Areas zoned as Agricultural are generally best for off-grid living. You are typically allowed to raise animals in these areas, live in a mobile home, and build accessory buildings.
Mississippi is also relaxed when it comes to minimum lot areas. Even in Agricultural zones, the minimum is usually only 1 or 2 acres. By comparison, North Carolina Ag zones usually require 5 acres. In Wyoming, you often must have 15 acres, and many Colorado counties require you to have upwards of 35 acres! This makes Mississippi a good choice for people who need to buy land on a tight budget.
Tiny Home Laws
Compared to other states, Mississippi has very relaxed laws about tiny homes. While there are minimum lot sizes, many counties do not have minimum dwelling size requirements in their zoning laws. This means you are usually free to build a tiny home on your property.
However, some counties still use the 2012 version of the International Residential Code (IRC). This version of the code states that
“Every dwelling unit shall have at least one habitable room that shall have not less than 120 square feet (11 m2 ) of gross floor area.”
The newer 2018 IRC removed this requirement and set new standards for tiny homes. Read about the changes here.
Mobile Home Laws
Most county zoning laws have strict rules about manufactured homes, modular homes, and mobile homes. Generally, these are only allowed in Agricultural zones. In residential zones, they are sometimes allowed, but you will likely need approval from the zoning board.
Zoning laws often limit you to one dwelling per lot, so you probably won’t be able to build an additional home on a property that already has a home.
You can read the Mississippi rules for factory-built homes here. These rules include definitions for what counts as a mobile home vs. modular.
Off-Grid Electricity Laws in Mississippi
It is entirely legal to have off-grid electricity in Mississippi. You will still have to meet all codes. These vary depending on the county, so some areas may have stricter code requirements. A licensed electrical contractor must perform residential electrical work costing more than $10,000.
Trying to figure out which permits you need for a solar power system can be incredibly confusing, especially since the state doesn’t currently have a statewide requirement. Getting permits for other off-grid energy systems, such as wind or hydropower, will be even more confusing.
Off-Grid Water Laws in Mississippi
Mississippi is a water-rich state. While overuse has caused strain on some water resources, the state generally suffers from too much water instead of drought. So, the laws for water use tend to be very relaxed in Mississippi. You should not have issues getting permission to use water.
Who Owns the Water in Mississippi?
Under Mississippi law, all water is owned by the state, but the people of the state have the right to use that water. Individuals can own the beds and banks of waterways.
Mississippi Code Sec. 51-1-4 also gives people the right to use public waterways, such as for fishing or boating. Under the law, people are allowed to use water on or next to your property – but they are not allowed to trespass on your property to do so.
The law is a bit murky about what qualifies as a public waterway, so be aware of this if you buy a property that has a waterway going through or next to it.
Well Water Laws
Wells must be drilled by a water well contractor licensed in the state of Mississippi. You do not need a permit for wells which are:
- Used for domestic purposes and providing potable water to only one household, or
- Wells with a surface casing diameter of less than six inches
For all other wells, you will need to get a permit. The process is relatively easy. Read more about the permit rules here. There are also details of the well water permit requirements for agricultural use here.
Surface Water Laws
Under Mississippi law, you can use surface water on your property for domestic use to a signal residence without getting a permit. You are even allowed to build a dam or divert a waterway without getting a permit in some situations, such as if the dam impounds fewer than 25 acre feet of water. Read more details here and in section 1.3 here.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Mississippi. The state government encourages rainwater harvesting but currently doesn’t offer any financial incentives.
You do not need a permit to have rain barrels. You don’t even need a permit for large cisterns so long as they are not more than 5,000 gallons and the ratio of height to diameter doesn’t exceed 2 to 1. You will probably need an excavation permit to install underground rainwater catchment systems though.
Wastewater Laws in Mississippi
The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) is responsible for wastewater disposal regulations, and these regulations tend to be very strict. Some of these laws might make it illegal for you to go completely off-grid. You can read the details of the MS wastewater laws here.
Required to Connect to the Sewer
Under Mississippi law, all properties must connect to a centralized wastewater treatment system if available. This is very common in many states. However, the Mississippi law does not specify what “available” means. The FAQs section of the MSDH website says,
“By law, sewer systems have first-right to provide sewer to everyone. As such, MSDH automatically refers applications within one (1) mile of a sewer line to connect.”
Based on this, we can assume that you will be forced to use (and pay for!) the municipal sewer system if it is within one mile of your property. This is much more strict than in other parts of the USA, which usually only require connection if the sewer is within 200 feet of the property.
If a municipal sewer system isn’t available, you will most likely be required to have a septic system. You’ll need to submit a soil test before getting a septic permit. Septic systems must be installed by licensed contractors. A license is also required for pumping and working on septic systems.
Sewers and Water Meters
If you plan on having a municipal water supply, you won’t be able to get a water meter until you get a wastewater permit.
Compost Toilets and Alternative Systems
Composting toilets and some other alternative wastewater systems are technically legal in Mississippi. However, they are only allowed in very remote areas or certain temporary locations. You’ll need to get approval from the local health department, and there is no guarantee they will approve your system.
Outhouses (Pit Privies)
Outhouses are technically legal in Mississippi, but only in very remote areas where the building has no indoor plumbing and no water under pressure. Even if your property meets these requirements, it is ultimately up to the local health officer whether you get a permit.
Mississippi has terrible laws when it comes to graywater recycling. The state doesn’t even officially recognize graywater. Instead, it is all considered wastewater and must go through an approved sewer system. It is illegal to dump wastewater on your property.
However, there is a section of the law that says
“Sanitary drainage piping and systems that convey only the discharge from bathtubs, showers, lavatories, clothes washers and laundry trays shall not be required to connect to a public sewer or to a private sewage disposal system provided that the piping or systems are connected to a system in accordance with Section P2910 or P2911.”
Under these rules, you could recycle graywater – but the regulations are stringent. For example, you would even have to filter water before using it for flushing toilets. The system would end up being so expensive and impractical to design that it might as well be illegal.
Do you live off-grid in Mississippi? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below.