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, as well as 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 which do not have statewide building codes or allow jurisdictions to opt out of the codes. However, this does not mean that you are free to 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.
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
List of Places without Residential Building Codes in the USA
Here is a comprehensive list of counties and local jurisdictions in the USA which 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 of the 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 any counties without building codes that didn’t make this list. It will be updated regularly!
Alabama actually does have statewide building codes. However, they only apply to residential construction and certain types of commercial construction.
Further, the Division of Construction Management does not have authority to 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.
- Covington County
- Colbert County
- Conecuh County
- Chilton County
- Bibb County
- Coosa County
- Wilcox County
- Bullock County
- Perry County
- Choctaw County
- Crenshaw County
- Lamar County: Lamar County unincorporated areas currently do not conduct inspections on single-family residential construction. In addition, we do not conduct structural inspections in unincorporated areas at this time for any construction project. Lamar County does not have structural building codes outside of the city limits. However, we do require a Flood Permit for any structure requiring a utility of any type.
- Hale County
- Washington County
- Cleburne County
- Henry County
- Pickens County
- Macon County
- Marengo County
- Randolph County
- Clarke County
- Winston County
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 does not have statewide residential codes. However, there are statewide codes that 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 County: Has no building codes but land use permits are required. According to one reader, the county has one of the highest concentrations of off-grid and alternative building folks in the nation.
- 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 do have building codes.
- Montezuma County
- Prowers County: They require zoning permits but do not seem to have building codes.
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, a lot of these places also don’t have websites where you can 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 does enforce zoning laws.
- Pope County
- Gallatin County
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 at all, though building permits are usually still required. Note that cities and towns in the counties below usually do have building codes.
Also read: Kansas Off-Grid Laws
Counties without building codes in Kansas (click + to open)
Mississippi has state-wide building codes but allowed 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 has no statewide building code, and codes are adopted on the local level. 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
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 find out whether they enforce codes or not. Because some counties are so small, this can actually be quite difficult. There often isn’t a website or a phone number to call. You are also required to get a state permit before doing most types of construction. More info here.
Also read: Montana Off-Grid Laws
North Dakota has a state building code, but it 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:
- Steele County: Permits are required, but there do not seem to be codes.
- Golden Valley County
- Sheridan County
- Slope County
- Oliver County
- Logan County
- Towner County
- *Burke County: Bowbells City, Columbus City, Flaxton City, Lignite City, Portal City, and Powers Lake City have adopted building codes.
- Dickey County
- Emmons County
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 fairly 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 doesn’t have any codes, you can still request an inspection from the Fire Marshall. This allows you to get financing and insurance – both of 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
- Carroll County
- Cocke County
- Decatur County
- Fentress County
- Franklin County
- Minor Hill
- Grundy County
- Henry County
- Houston County
- Humphreys County
- Jackson County
- Lawrence County
- Lewis County
- Moore County/Lynchburg
- Perry County
- Pickett County
- Scott County
- Stewart County
- Van Buren County
- Wayne County
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 find out which counties have building codes or not. I suggest going to Wikipedia to get a list of Texas counties and filtering it by population. The counties with the fewest residents tend to not 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 has a state building code, but it does not require communities to adopt it 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 has building codes but leaves it up to local jurisdictions to adopt them. As a result, there are still many places in Wyoming 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 they want to enact it (either through an opt-in or opt-out system).
And there are a few states which have absolutely no statewide building codes and leave it completely 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
A lot of places do have building codes but just 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 have no way of performing inspections or enforcing code. The same applies to Alaska and South Dakota.
Even if a place does not enforce code, it is always a risk to build something not up to code. You never know when the jurisdiction will hire inspectors to do enforcement – meaning you could suddenly face large 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 need an inspection too. It’s often impossible to get a building permit 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 are more focused on how you can use your property.
The goal of zoning laws is to preserve the local culture, ensure complementary uses, and control development.
There is often some overlap between the two sets of rules. For example, both 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, it 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 some 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 then be forced to pay for very 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 do 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.