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RVIA or NOAH: Certifying Your RV Park Tiny Home


tiny home

RVIA or NOAH: Certifying Your RV Park Tiny Home

If you like staying at RV parks instead of boondocking, you may notice tiny homes on wheels in some of the RV sites.  Some folks prefer living in tiny homes over traditional RVs like travel trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes. They set up their tiny homes in RV resorts as seasonal vacation spots.  Other tiny home owners want to settle down in an RV park or campground even longer, perhaps permanently.  

Not every RV park or campground allows tiny houses on their property.  Those that accept a unit usually do so because it has an official certification attached. Within the tiny house industry, there are many contenders in inspections and certifications.  This article will delve into two major players: RVIA and NOAH.  Which certification is right for a tiny home owner or potential owner is up to each person’s needs.

What is a tiny home RVIA certification?

The national organization Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has been around for many years. Their inspection and certification program is available to manufacturers who have a well-equipped facility. RVIA’s list of standards for constructing RVs and Park Model RVs includes proper installation of plumbing, fuel burning, electrical, and other safety-related systems. 

Manufacturer members of RVIA must comply with these guidelines to achieve RVIA-certification status. They must also go through a series of inspection protocols, including surprise factory audits a few times a year and hands-on training. 

Tiny home manufacturers that opt for the RVIA certification route and achieve the status can officially slap on the licensed tiny home RV label to each unit. 

What is a tiny home NOAH certification?

The NOAH, or National Organization of Alternative Housing, has been actively assisting the tiny home community since 2015. NOAH uses a combination of RVIA standards (the RV Industry NFPA 1192, ANSI 119.5, and NFPA 70) and residential requirements (energy and structural standards from the home building industry) as part of its certification process.  

They provide a third-party inspection with each tiny home at specific phases of construction. This is all done digitally. Manufacturers or DIYers use an app to download and store pictures and videos of each construction stage for certified inspectors to review.

After a successful final inspection, the NOAH Certification Seal is shipped via certified mail, and once received, permanently displayed on the unit. Tiny homes with NOAH certification are often recognized as full-time residences because of their added structural and energy standards.

NOAH makes certification easy for DIYers

Unlike RVIA, NOAH welcomes DIYers to build their dream tiny homes and obtain their seal of approval with their DIY Builder Certification program. Builders can contact customer service members and inspectors if they have any questions or need advice throughout their build.  

Plus, every single phase of a home build is carefully checked by certified inspectors for compliance with NOAH standards utilizing NOAH’s app. Completing a well-constructed tiny home more efficiently is an attainable goal. The tiny home on wheels finished product gives the builder, its inhabitants, and other parties the assurance that the construction was done correctly and the home is safe.

Jilan Wise of Far Out Tiny Homes details a unique and affordable way DIYers can finance and certify their tiny home build. She details how to easily fund a DIY tiny home build with the Project Loan from Home Depot. She encourages DIYers to utilize NOAH’s guidance and certification program as well. It’s a no-brainer deal.

A closer look at tiny home RVIA and NOAH certifications

The graph below was adapted from an article by Arnold Custom Builders, a custom residential and commercial construction company in Texas.  It gives a simple breakdown of basic accommodations offered (X) or not offered (  ) by each entity.

ACCOMMODATIONSRVIANOAH
Uses RV standardsXX
Adds structural & energy requirements used in residential homesX
Is approved in RV parksXX
Access to insuranceXX
Access to fundingXX
Inspects each tiny home on wheelsX
Is a trade associationXX
Digitializes and stores inspectionsX
Cost$$$$$$
Customer service via phoneXX

Easier financing

When a buyer purchases a tiny home from a manufacturer with an RVIA or NOAH certification, financing is notably easier.  Lenders often grapple with classifying tiny homes that do not have a certification attached, resulting in limited loan opportunities.  The RVIA or NOAH seal of approval gives tiny home owners more leverage in the lending game and lengthens the list of lenders.

Todd Nelson is a business development officer with LightStream.  This online lending division of SunTrust Bank conducts a number of transactions with tiny-home businesses.

Nelson mentioned, “If someone buys a house from a builder, the financing companies have a higher level of trust that it was built correctly and will thus better retain its value.”

Better insurance options

Just like financial institutions, insurance companies are more apt to secure a plan for a product that can be easily defined and has the right documentation to show that it is certifiable and backed by experts.  

According to Policy Genius, an online insurance marketplace, most insurance companies look for the RVIA and NOAH certifications. This is a green light to start building a solid insurance plan, whether you plan to move your tiny home often or keep it stationary for longer periods. They give examples of insurance coverage options suited for RVIA and NOAH certified tiny homes below.

Example 1: “If your tiny house is on wheels, it’s RVIA-certified, and you plan on moving it around often, you should first look into an RV policy, which will cover your tiny house both when it’s parked and when it’s moving. Most major insurers offer RV policies which feature a full suite of protection, such as: structural coverage…liability insurance…medical payments…collision coverage…uninsured and underinsured motorist protection.”  

In addition, “ If you live in the tiny house permanently, you’ll want to be sure you get a “full timer’s” policy, which is offered by major insurers like Progressive and Foremost.”

Example 2: “If your tiny house was built by a NOAH-certified builder and you don’t move it more than a couple of times a year, your easiest insurance option would probably be a manufactured home insurance policy, also called a mobile and manufactured home policy, which is offered by most insurance companies.

There are a couple considerations to keep in mind when it comes to mobile home insurance: if you ever plan on moving your home to a new location, you’ll need a transit endorsement to cover your home and personal belongings while on the road. You’ll also need to inform your insurance company whenever you switch locations.”

Established safety protocols

Both RVIA and NOAH have detailed inspection programs.  They differ, however, in the frequency of check-ups.  NOAH inspectors, for example, review each and every tiny home that goes through their certification process.  They inspect each unit at different construction stages: its foundation stage, framing phase, installment of electrical, plumbing, HVAC systems, and completion.

In contrast, RVIA uses a random check system. An RVIA inspector will pay a surprise visit to the manufacturing plant. He/she utilizes a checklist to perform the audit and examines whatever is on the line for any issues.

Ensure peace of mind for tiny home owners

It is no easy feat to obtain RVIA or NOAH certification. Builders are responsible for following hundreds of safety codes. Knowing that experts took the extra time and effort to ensure that measures were taken to produce a safe and secure unit should bring peace of mind to the owner.

If you are a tiny home owner and unsure if a particular RV park allows tiny home units, you can find assurance with Campground Reviews. This trusted online source gives users contact information for all facilities so you can call or email regarding specific information on tiny home policies. Plus, you can read honest customer reviews regarding customer service and on-site amenities.

Still not sure if a tiny home is right for you? Check out this article from Do It Yourself RV on Tiny Homes vs RVs: Which Is Right For You?

See also: Couple Earns Over $20K Listing Tiny Home On Airbnb

Author Natalie Henley Avatar

Natalie Henley

Natalie Flores-Henley and her husband, Levi Henley, workamp around the country in their 26-foot motorhome. Along with writing for RV magazines, they recently published their first book together, Seasonal Workamping for a Living: How We Did It. They share their experiences and RV-related tips on their own blog henleyshappytrails.com as well as videos on their YouTube Channel, also called Henley's Happy Trails.

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