Live Off Grid—Go To Jail?


Here recently in the United States, regulators in several counties have passed local zoning ordinances that make it all but impossible for people to consider living in an off-grid environment. In certain instances, those attempting to live a self-reliant and sustainable lifestyle have been threatened with facing charges and potential jail time.

In order to escape some of these obnoxiously overzealous zoning regulations that aim to restrict the individual’s right to live an off-grid lifestyle, many of those who have been previously targeted are now relocating to the American Southwest.

The San Luis Valley, a region located in Costilla County, Colorado has witnessed an influx of people moving there for the specific purpose of embracing an off-grid lifestyle. Relaxed zoning laws, cost effective property offers, and a pre-existing community of off-grid enthusiasts has had a significant impact on the decision of others to move here and join with the rest of the residents.

Within the last year, this off-grid community has come under repeated attacks in the form of stricter zoning regulations being passed, in what appears to be an effort to restrict the ability of homesteaders using their land as they see fit.


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One of the “new” methods used by zoning enforcers, which has been at the center of heated discussions is the county’s ban on camping, especially if it the homesteaders are doing it on their own property. This has been seen as an effort to enforce off-grid enthusiasts to sell their property, or at the very least to enforce them into rejoining the grid.

While an outright ban for camping on personal property wasn’t initially on the books, Costilla county requires individuals to purchase a camping permit in order to reside in a “tiny home,” RV, yurt, or any other type of “camping” style shelter; the county now refuses permit renewal for those considered off-grid homesteaders. Obviously, this has created an enormous headache for those who are living in such accommodations while they erect more permanent shelters.

Many of the new residents purchased 90-day permits for camping on personal property prior to making the move to Colorado, only to discover that renewal of the permit would not be an easy task. Property owners who do not have the required 90-day camping permit are allowed to establish camp on private property, but for no longer than 14 days, and then only once every three months. This makes most new residents outlaws.

The administrator for land use within the county claims that the office has discretion in issuing and renewing camping permits for private property, and that new residents were abusing the system by repeatedly renewing permits without ever having the intent to establish a more permanent shelter.

The defamation of off-grid homesteaders has become commonplace across the modern American landscape as governments at all levels, federal, state and local, continue to try and contain the alternate lifestyles that do not financially support grid based infrastructures.

There might be reasonable issues that require being addressed, discussed and agreed upon; however, using legal technicalities to all but evict land owners from their property, is akin to government overreach, tyrannical behavior patterns, and the absolute breach of personal liberty.

While the uproar from citizens in the community resulted in the zoning laws not being changed, the county land use office is still refusing the renewal of permits for those living an off-grid lifestyle. Although there doesn’t seem to be the threat of charges, fines, and jail time to contend with currently, that could all change overnight.

This isn’t just happening in one county of Colorado. In fact, it is happening in almost every state, in some fashion or another. Laws that forbid the collection of rainwater, or that insist a home be connected to the grid, even if the homeowners have installed sufficient off grid energy equipment to forego paying a monthly bill, or that prevent food from being grown in suburban gardens, are all examples of government overreach and abusive policies aimed at ensuring people are unable to break free from the rat race that wastes their hard-earned money on failed infrastructures.

If you are thinking of getting off the grid where you live, then make sure to conduct due diligence and find out what you are in store for before you get started. It will save you a ton of time, and reduce the amount of mind numbing motions you must go through just to enjoy the type of lifestyle we were always meant to live!

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