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Why Is It Illegal to Live Off-grid? (Explained)

For some people, the idea of living off-grid is the perfect lifestyle for them and their family. It offers a level of freedom not often seen in today’s society. Unfortunately, the off-the-grid lifestyle often includes several obstacles that can quickly put a damper on your dreams.

One such obstacle is the myth that living off-grid is illegal. Far too often, people assume that they cannot take the leap into the off-the-grid lifestyle because it is not legal. The truth is that there isn’t an actual law that states you cannot live off-the-grid.

With that said, however, the legality of off-the-grid living can be tricky to navigate. This is because of local city/county ordinances and zoning restrictions that can make some aspects of living off-grid illegal.

Why is it illegal to live off-grid?

In the United States, it is not actually illegal to live off-grid. In fact, several states have started becoming more friendly to off-grid living, making their zoning laws more flexible.

The confusion comes from the fact that some cities and counties around the U.S. have strict zoning regulations and laws that interfere with many aspects of off-grid-living.

For example, many areas throughout the United States have regulations against owning chickens within city limits, while others prohibit the collection of rainwater. There are also some things often associated with off-grid living that are in fact illegal and should be avoided if you want to live life off-the-grid.

What aspects of off-grid-living are illegal?

The following are some examples of acts often associated with the off-grid lifestyle, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually a part of the movement. In fact, you can still live off the grid while staying on the right side of the law.

1. Squatting

Most people who decide to embrace the off-the-grid lifestyle purchase land and then build their home. Some people, however, decide to take a more illegal approach and squat on property that they feel is abandoned.

Setting up shop on land you do not own is not the right way to live off the grid, and sooner or later you will be rightfully removed from the property and may even face a large fine.

2. Septic System

A septic or sewage system is a common obstacle that many people who are looking to live off-the-grid face. Sewage cannot be dumped just anywhere as it poses a serious health risk to others as well as the environment.

Unfortunately, for those wanting to live off-the-grid, connecting to the nearest city’s sewage system is probably a no-go. Instead, you will need to establish your own system using a septic tank. This typically, however, requires a permit.

3. Not Paying Taxes

No matter how you feel about taxes, the government makes it clear that everyone must pay their “fair share.” And there are taxes on everything. From the money you make, to the items you buy.

You are even required to pay taxes on your property and livestock. Some people living off-grid try to avoid paying taxes and end up in a lot of trouble with the IRS.

4. Hunting and Fishing Without Permits

Hunting and fishing usually go hand-and-hand with the off-grid lifestyle, and some people are under the impression that they can hunt and fish anywhere without the government’s permission.

The truth is that even if you are hunting or fishing on your own property, you probably still need a permit. Getting caught without a hunting or fishing license can result in a hefty fine. The best course of action is to play it safe and obtain the proper licenses for your hunting and fishing activities.

What states in the U.S. are friendly to the off-grid lifestyle?

There are several states in the United States that offer lenient laws and fewer restrictions on the off-grid lifestyle. These states include:

  • Alaska – This state has minimal regulations when it comes to the off-grid lifestyle.
  • Colorado – Colorado isn’t just friendly to those looking to live off-the-grid, in some counties they have also begun building sustainable houses.
  • Florida – Florida has implemented laws and regulations that actually encourage people to install wind and solar energy sources, which is a great start to supporting the off-the-grid lifestyle.
  • Missouri – This state is another one that supports the off-grid lifestyle. They even have some of the most lenient laws when it comes to collecting rainwater and requiring septic systems.
  • Ohio – Ohio is another state that is becoming more open to off-grid living. Many of the counties in this state don’t have strict zoning laws, and many times don’t even have a permit office.


The dream of living life off-grid can be a reality, but you will need to follow the local laws and ordinances in your area. No one wants to butt heads with the government or law enforcement. Making sure you follow the regulations will go a long way to ensuring the success of your off-grid lifestyle.

Keep in mind that the actual laws and regulations will vary from one state to the next. Before taking the leap, do your due-diligence and investigate the laws in the area you plan to live off-the-grid. If you’re having difficulty finding this information, contact your local courthouse as they can provide you with the necessary information.

Written by OutdoorMotives

At outdoormotives.com we talk about all types of outdoor activities. We answer common questions and recommend the best products to help you enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.


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