Can I Have a Shipping Container in My Backyard Legally?

shipping container in backyard

In recent years, shipping containers have become a popular alternative to traditional homes. More people now want to invest in small living spaces, and a shipping container can be an affordable and durable option. As you see many homeowners put up container homes, you might be wondering, can I have a shipping container in my backyard? Is it legal to have just for storage purposes?

Having a shipping container in your backyard is legal depending on what the container is being used for. The legality of having a shipping container in your backyard will also depend on where you are located. State and county laws differ depending on where you live, so you should ask your local council before getting one.

Some places may have strict rules regarding having a shipping container in your backyard. If you are planning to have one on your property, read on to know some tips you might find useful.

Can I Have A Shipping Container On My Property?

The legality of having a shipping container on your property is one of the first concerns of most homeowners who want to own the alternative home structure. It’s also the same for anyone who wants to have a shipping container solely for the purpose of temporary storage. In most cases, yes, you can have one on your property.

Start off by acknowledging that there are certain regulations and permits involved. You need to think about building permits or even consider if there is a need to secure a permit just to have a shipping container.

Do I Need A Permit To Put A Shipping Container On My Property?

You will need to check your local ordinances to see if putting a shipping container on your property is considered legal. You might also want to check if you’ve signed a neighborhood agreement when purchasing your property. Try to see if the neighborhood you’re in has set limits on what you can do on the property.

A shipping container is an industrial item, so, generally, it won’t be appreciated by your neighbors. It’s even worse if you have neighbors who like to make a fuss about you having a large shipping container on your property. They would do everything just to have you get rid of it.

When obtaining a permit to get a shipping container, you’ll most likely provide the following details:

  • The physical location of the container on your property.
  • The physical condition of the container
  • Rules and regulations in your area
  • The length of time your container will sit on your property
  • How your neighbors or residents in the area will be affected by the presence of the container

Do I Need A Permit For A Shipping Container?

Before purchasing a shipping container, you need to consider the paperwork involved. You need to be familiar with what the law requires when it comes to large structures that will be put on your property. Below are some helpful tips to consider when it comes to permits for shipping containers:

  • Used as backyard storage containers – if you want to have a shipping container as temporary storage, it might be easier to obtain permits. In most cases, though, a permit is not required as long as you can guarantee that the container does not become a permanent structure
  • The size – some municipalities will allow temporary placement of the container on your property without permits as long as it does not exceed a certain size (for example, more than 200 square feet in floor area)
  • Homeowner’s association – if you live in a neighborhood, ask your homeowner’s association about containers if they allow its temporary storage. Storage containers are usually not desirable in residential areas so you might need to check on that as well
  • Temporary use permit – depending on where you live, city ordinances may require a temporary use permit, which can be obtained with minimal effort.
  • High-Traffic locations – if you live in an area with high traffic, obtaining a shipping container may become a bit of a challenge. Shipping containers are not generally considered a pleasant sight. In addition, it can take up space and would be a cause of obstruction in busy areas.
  • Permit expediter – if you’re having trouble securing a permit, you might need to work with a permit expediter. This consultant will take care of the paperwork for you.

Do I Need A Building Permit For A Shipping Container?

Some cities do require a building permit even if the purpose of the container is for temporary storage only. This is because some cities made it mandatory to have a foundation for your container. So before you purchase a container, make sure you get the permits and paperwork done.

On the other hand, some cities or states allow shipping containers to be on your property as long as it follows certain criteria.

Let’s take Portland, Oregon, for example. In their code guide, it was stated that the Bureau of Department Services (BDS) will allow installation of cargo containers if they meet the following conditions:

  1. Containers are used as storage only
  2. Containers are not used as shops, studios, hobby rooms, offices, lunch rooms, sales areas, playhouses, or other similar uses
  3. Containers are not used for storage of motorized passenger vehicles
  4. Containers are not stacked on top of each other
  5. Containers are not classified as a High-Hazard Group H occupancy
  6. Containers are not equipped with plumbing or electrical power or lighting. 

That said, if your container does not meet the above criteria, you need to meet the requirements stated in the Zoning Code and Building Code. This is for the state of Oregon; other states may have different code guides. So, be familiar with the regulations in your area.

Can I Put Shipping Containers On My Land?

While permits for shipping containers put on high-traffic areas are difficult to obtain, you might have a chance if you’re located in low-traffic communities. If you plan to put shipping containers on your land, know that the lot size will be a factor for the approval of permits. Whereas a lot size of less than two acres should not accommodate more than one container. 

If you have more than two acres of land, you will need to apply for rezoning and accomplish other legal requirements so you can put up multiple shipping containers on your property.

Can I Put A Shipping Container In My Yard?

This will mostly depend on the overall purpose of the shipping container. Are you putting a container to serve as storage space? Or do you need a shipping container home? Once you know the answer, it’s unlikely for you to break the law.

If you’re planning a chic shipping container home, make sure that you’re clear about the design you want to have. Also, you need to specify if it’s going to be used as a primary dwelling, designed as a vacation home, or put up as a rental home. In this case, you will need to adhere to zoning and building codes, as previously mentioned.

Can I Have A Shipping Container In My Garden? 

Shipping containers are a popular choice of structures to put in gardens. They can be turned into garden sheds or even a place to grow plants indoors. The thing about putting a shipping container in your garden is that you need to make sure it isn’t visible to other people. Most city ordinances will allow shipping containers in gardens if it doesn’t become an eyesore to residents nearby.

If your property is not screened by a landscaping feature (e.g. hedges or decorative boundary walls) or a fence, then it’s not a good idea to get a shipping container. That is because the container should not be visible from adjacent streets. 

But if you really have to, then think about the best place for your container. For instance, if the only adjacent street is the front street, then you need to place the container at the back of your house. This will most likely be where your garden area is.

As mentioned earlier, a temporary use permit may be granted to you. This permit will allow you to use the storage container for up to 180 days. If you want to put up a permanent container structure, like turn it into a house, then you need to apply for special permits.

If you intend to have a shipping container for longer periods of time or permanently, keep in mind that it should comply with local building codes. Having a container also means you need to be mindful of how it will affect the neighborhood. The best thing you can do is to keep it away from public view. If not, you can paint it so it blends in with your surroundings.


In summary, you can have a shipping container in your backyard depending on your use case. More importantly however, you should become acquainted with the rules to follow so that you can legally have a shipping container on your property. 

It is perfectly legal to have this structure in your backyard. You can build a home, a guest house, a garden, and even office space with a shipping container. Just make sure you are clear about the purpose of the container. Whether you’re using it as housing or storage, different rules could apply.  

Some states won’t allow shipping containers in residential neighborhoods. Others do allow them but only for a limited amount of time. That said, rules and regulations regarding shipping containers in backyards will vary.

If you are unsure, do your research and always ask the council about your laws. The last thing you would want is to pay a large sum for shipping containers only to have them removed because you didn’t accomplish the proper paperwork.

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