States, Counties and Places with No Building Codes in the USA: Comprehensive List 

Even though building codes exist to protect people from dangerous construction, they can also be a huge hassle – especially if you want to build a home on a budget, live off-grid, or use alternative materials such as cob or adobe.

In most places in the USA, there is no getting around building codes (or the expensive permits and inspections process!). However, there are still many places in the USA without building codes. 

Here’s what you need to know about no building codes and a list of counties in the USA without residential building codes.

Places With No Building Codes Interactive Map

Hover over each state to get a brief status. Click any green state to get more in-depth information.

States without Building Codes

There are 12 states in the USA that do not have statewide building codes or allow jurisdictions to opt out of the codes. However, this does not mean you can build whatever you want in these states. 

Many counties within the states have chosen to adopt codes. For example, even though Delaware has no statewide residential codes, every county in Delaware has adopted a building code.

  1. Alabama
  2. Arizona
  3. Colorado
  4. Delaware
  5. Illinois
  6. Mississippi
  7. Missouri
  8. North Dakota
  9. Tennessee
  10. Texas
  11. West Virginia
  12. Wyoming 

List of Places without Residential Building Codes in the USA

Here is a comprehensive list of counties and local jurisdictions in the USA that don’t have residential building codes. 

Important: I did not call every single county on this list. Also, laws are constantly being updated, so some counties may have enacted building codes since the time of writing. There may be some inaccuracies! 

Please let us know in the comments if you find an inaccuracy. Also, let us know of counties without building codes that didn’t make this list. It will be updated regularly! 

Alabama

Alabama does have statewide building codes. However, they only apply to residential construction and certain types of commercial construction.

Further, the Division of Construction Management cannot enforce residential codes. Instead, it is left up to the local counties. If there is no local authority, then codes are enforced by the State Fire Marshall. Read more here.

Also read: Alabama Off-Grid Laws

Below are counties that do not have local code enforcement in Alabama.  

Arizona

Arizona has no statewide building codes, but most larger towns and cities have adopted codes. 

Currently, there is one county in Arizona without building codes.

Also read: Arizona Off-Grid Laws

Colorado

Colorado does not have statewide residential codes. However, statewide codes apply to factory-built homes and manufactured homes. The IBC applies to certain commercial and state-owned buildings. 

Also read: Colorado Off-Grid Laws

Counties with No building Codes in Colorado:

  • Saguache CountyHas no building codes but land use permits are required. According to one reader, the county has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of off-grid and alternative building folks.
  • Mineral County
  • Sedgwick County: No building codes, but permits are required.
  • Baca County
  • Costilla County: It seems the county requires permits but does not have any building codes. Check with the county first.
  • Phillips County: It appears that the county only enforces the National Electric Code. There is zoning.
  • Washington County: Does not have building codes in effect but does require permits.
  • Custer County: No building codes but does have zoning.
  • Delta County: Note that Delta City and incorporated areas have building codes.
  • Montezuma County
  • Prowers County: They require zoning permits but do not seem to have building codes.

Illinois

Illinois does not have statewide building codes for residential buildings. Instead, it is up to local counties and cities to adopt codes. 

Many places in the southern part of Illinois do not have building codes. Unfortunately, many of these places also don’t have websites to find that information – you’ll have to call each county individually to ask.

You can find a directory of places that do have codes here

Also read: Illinois Off-Grid Laws

Places without building codes in Illinois:

  • Woodford County
  • Macoupin County 
  • Ogle County: The county does not have building codes but enforces zoning laws.
  • Pope County
  • Gallatin County 

Kansas

Kansas has no statewide building codes besides the Kansas Fire Prevention Code and 2006 IECC for commercial buildings.

Many counties have not adopted building codes, though building permits are usually still required. Note that cities and towns in the counties below usually have building codes. 

Also read: Kansas Off-Grid Laws

Counties without building codes in Kansas (click + to open)

  • Allen County
  • Anderson County
  • Barber County
  • Barton County
  • Bourbon County
  • Brown County
  • Chase County
  • Chautauqua County
  • Cherokee County
  • Cheyenne County
  • Clay County
  • Cloud County 
  • Coffey County
  • Comanche County
  • Cowley County
  • Decatur County
  • Dickson County
  • Doniphan County
  • Edwards County
  • Elk County
  • Ellsworth County
  • Finney County
  • Ford County 
  • Geary County 
  • Gove County
  • Graham County
  • Grant County
  • Gray County
  • Greeley County
  • Greenwood County
  • Hamilton County
  • Harper County
  • Harvey County
  • Haskell County
  • Hodgeman County
  • Jackson County
  • Jefferson County
  • Jewell County
  • Kearny County
  • Kingman County
  • Kiowa County
  • Labette County
  • Lane County
  • Leavenworth County
  • Lincoln County
  • Linn County
  • Logan County
  • Lyon County
  • McPherson County
  • Marion County
  • Marshall County
  • Meade County
  • Mitchell County
  • Montgomery County
  • Morris County
  • Morton County
  • Nemaha County
  • Neosho County
  • Ness County
  • Norton County
  • Osage County
  • Osborne County
  • Ottawa County
  • Pawnee County
  • Phillips County
  • Pottawatomie  County
  • Pratt County
  • Rawlins County
  • Reno County
  • Republic County
  • Rice County
  • Riley County 
  • Rooks  County
  • Rush County
  • Russell County
  • Saline County
  • Sheridan County
  • Sherman County
  • Smith County
  • Stafford County
  • Stanton County
  • Stevens County
  • Sumner County
  • Thomas County
  • Wabaunsee County
  • Wallace County
  • Washington County
  • Wichita County
  • Wilson County
  • Woodson County

Mississippi

Mississippi has state-wide building codes but allows local jurisdictions to opt-out. Two that did are:

  • Warren County
  • Adams County

If you know any other counties in Mississippi without building codes, let us know in the comments section! 

Also read: Mississippi Off-Grid Laws

Missouri

Missouri has no statewide building code, and codes are adopted locally. Many places outside of major cities have not adopted any codes, nor do they require permits. You can find a list of counties without codes here.

Also read: Missouri Off-Grid Laws

Here are just some of the counties without building codes in Missouri:

  • Buchanan County
  • Douglas County
  • Jasper County
  • Lawrence County
  • Lincoln County
  • Newton County
  • Texas County 
  • Vernon County
  • Webster County

*Montana

Contrary to common belief, Montana does have statewide building codes. However, local jurisdictions are not required to enforce these codes.

You’ll have to call the county to determine whether they enforce codes. Because some counties are so small, this can be quite difficult. There often isn’t a website or a phone number to call. You must also get a state permit before doing most types of construction. More info here

Also read: Montana Off-Grid Laws

North Dakota

North Dakota has a state building code but does not require local jurisdictions to enact it. If the jurisdiction does choose to enact a code, it must enact the state code. 

Also read: North Dakota Off-Grid Laws

The following counties in North Dakota do not have building codes:

Tennessee

Tennessee has a very confusing building code system. There are statewide codes, but jurisdictions can choose to enact their own building codes. 

Further, jurisdictions can also vote to completely opt out of having codes. When voting, they can choose to opt out of just unincorporated areas or just certain towns or cities. This has created a patchwork system of codes across the state.

Voting to opt out occurs pretty frequently,  so there is no guarantee that your county will continue to opt out of having building codes. 

Places that have not opted out of code can choose to enforce the codes themselves. Or they can enroll in a program where the State Fire Marshal’s Office conducts inspections and enforces codes. It uses local contractors for this.

Even if your place in Tennessee has no codes, you can still request an inspection from the Fire Marshall. This allows you to get financing and insurance, which may require passing code inspection. You can get more info here

Also read: Tennessee Off-Grid Laws

Places in Tennessee without residential building codes are: 

  • Benton County
  • Auburntown
  • Carroll County
  • Cocke County
  • Parrottsville
  • Decatur County
  • Dowelltown
  • Slayden
  • Vanleer
  • Fentress County
  • Franklin County
  • Ardmore
  • Minor Hill 
  • Grundy County
  • Henry County
  • Puryear
  • Houston County
  • Humphreys County
  • Jackson County
  • Lawrence County
  • Lewis County 
  • Moore County/Lynchburg 
  • Perry County
  • Pickett County
  • Scott County
  • Huntsville
  • Stewart County
  • Van Buren County
  • Wayne County

Texas

Texas has adopted the IBC, IEBC, and IRC for residential dwellings. However, in unincorporated areas, the code does not apply automatically; the area must specifically adopt a resolution ordering the code. 

Further, jurisdictions are allowed to amend the code as they see fit. As a result, many places in Texas still have no building codes or very relaxed building codes. Many areas also don’t enforce existing building codes.

You’ll have to do some digging to determine which counties have building codes. I suggest going to Wikipedia to get a list of Texas counties and filtering it by population. The counties with the fewest residents tend not to have any codes at all. 

Also read: Texas Off-Grid Laws

Places in Texas without building codes:

*There are probably many more, but I didn’t research them all. Also, please double-check with these counties in case I made a mistake or the laws have changed!

  • Loving County
  • McMullen County
  • Borden County
  • Roberts County
  • Motley County
  • Foard County
  • Glasscock County
  • Stonewall County
  • Cottle County
  • Sterling County
  • Briscoe County
  • Throckmorton County
  • Oldham County
  • Armstrong County
  • Jeff Davis County 
  • Menard County 

West Virginia

West Virginia has a state building code but does not require communities to adopt or enforce it. As a result, many unincorporated areas in West Virginia have no building codes.

You can find a list of places that have adopted the state building code here

Also read: West Virginia Off-Grid Laws

Here are some places in WV without building codes:

  • Monongolia County
  • Pocohontas County
  • Terra Alta County
  • Preston County 
  • Braxton County
  • Pendelton County
  • Calhoun County 

Wyoming

Wyoming has building codes but leaves it up to local jurisdictions to adopt them. As a result, many places in Wyoming are still without building codes. 

Also read: Wyoming Off-Grid Laws

Some places in Wyoming without building codes are:

  • Johnson County
  • Fremont County
  • Crook County
  • Park County
  • Niobrara County
  • Hot Springs County 
  • Weston County

How Are Building Codes Regulated?

Most states have adopted a statewide building code that automatically applies to every community in the state. 

Some states have a statewide code but let local jurisdictions decide whether to enact it (either through an opt-in or opt-out system). 

And a few states have no statewide building codes and leave it entirely up to local jurisdictions.

Residential vs. Commercial Building Codes

Even in states with relaxed building codes, there are usually still codes for commercial buildings or certain types of buildings (such as schools and government buildings).

In this article, we are going to focus on residential codes. Farm buildings are generally excluded from commercial building codes.

No Codes vs. No Code Enforcement

Many places do have building codes but choose not to enforce them. 

One example is Montana. It regularly appears on lists of states without building codes when, in fact, it does have statewide codes. However, the state is so large and rural that most areas cannot perform inspections or enforce code. The same applies to Alaska and South Dakota.

Even if a place does not enforce code, building something not up to code is always a risk. You never know when the jurisdiction will hire inspectors to do enforcement – meaning you could suddenly face hefty fines for violations.  

There are plenty of horror stories online from people who had this happen to them. Some were even forced to demolish their homes because there was no way to get them up to code. 

Septic and Wastewater Codes Still Apply 

Septic and “onsite wastewater” laws are enacted on a statewide level. So, even if there are no building or plumbing codes in your area, you will still have to follow these laws.

If you aren’t connected to the municipal sewer system, you will probably need a state wastewater permit and may require an inspection, too. Getting a building permit is often impossible until you get your wastewater permit.

Building Codes vs. Zoning Laws

Building codes are very detailed rules regarding building practices. The goal is to ensure buildings are safe to live in. By contrast, zoning laws focus more on how you can use your property. 

Zoning laws aim to preserve the local culture, ensure complementary uses, and control development. 

There is often some overlap between the two sets of rules. For example, building codes and zoning laws usually have minimum floor size requirements for dwellings. 

Here are some examples of each.

  • Building code examples: Allowed materials, stairway heights, number of electrical outlets required, non-potable water labeling, baluster spacing
  • Zoning laws: Setback requirements, maximum building height, required number of parking spaces, whether you can have ADUs, number of permitted farm animals 

Just because a place doesn’t have building codes doesn’t mean there aren’t zoning laws (and vice versa).   

Problems with Not Building to Code

Aside from the safety aspect of building a home that isn’t up to code, you can face other problems if you don’t follow code. They include:

  • Not being able to get financing for your build: This is rare, but some lenders consider it too risky to finance homes not built to code
  • Difficulty selling the home later on, Especially if the county has since adopted codes
  • County may enact code later on: You may be forced to pay for expensive upgrades to get your home up to code. 
  • Expensive building code insurance: This insurance covers costs to get your home up to code. If your home isn’t built to code, this insurance will be expensive. 
  • Can’t use it commercially: Many places without residential codes have commercial codes. If you ever want to open a commercial business in your home, you would have to get up to code first. 

Know of other places without building codes that didn’t make this list? Or find an inaccuracy? Please let us know in the comments section. We will update this list regularly.

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Leave a comment

  1. This is not true anymore. Please update. I have found building permit applications that are required, with zoning and code restrictions in costilla county, saguache county, and many others. They include minimum sqft, detailed dwelling drawings, etc., just like any other regulated county. Please update this site, thanks.

    Reply
  2. Hello. Saguache County in Colorado does not have building codes. We just went through an extensive process and we will remain without Building Codes although there is huge pressure from the State with HB22-1362.
    I would be interested in talking to the author of this article to help us with some of our research. Also we are not on your comprehensive list and we have one of the highest concentrations of off-grid and alternative building folks in the nation.

    Reply
    • Hey Lisa. What town in Saguache County do most of the off gridders reside? I am interested going to talk with them about their off grid experience and how they get their water.

      Reply
  3. Idaho has been tightening the rules over the past few years, even in the liberty loving northern rural areas. Idaho County ID has the least restictive building rules in north/north central Idaho. The commissioners fought for complete building liberty to reflect the will of the residents but they finally had to capitulate to state regulators who were theatening to sue them. https://idahocounty.org/planb/resources/building-living-in-idaho-county/. Boundary County has “relatively few administrative requirements” and does not require anything beyond what the state DEQ enforces through Panhandle health — which involves water and septic. Kootenai County is super strict and will red tag you in a heartbeat. The other counties are more restrictive than Idaho and Boundary counties.

    Reply
  4. Nevada does not have statewide building codes. Their statewide building code applies to public and state owned buildings. Counties and cities enact their own for residential.

    ESMERALDA County NV has zero building and fire codes. No permits and no inspections.

    Reply
  5. Just found this post. Something I’ve been looking for for a while now!
    I’ll add:
    Socorro County, NM has no building codes. I know that from personal experience. There are state codes, but they’re not enforced if you don’t draw attention to yourself.
    Montana has no building codes outside of city limits. I got that info first hand when I called up whichever govt. department a year or two ago.
    Idaho has many counties without building codes, especially in the Northern area.
    Eureka County, NV has no building codes.
    Cochise County, AZ allows owners to opt out of building codes if they’re going to build themselves.
    I have heard rumors that there are many places in Alaska with no building codes, but I can’t confirm.

    Reply

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