New York City, NY

The worst states for off-grid living

Sara B

Most looking to live off-grid are looking for particular criteria, and most involve freedom. There will also be a low cost of living, as most people are sick of being stuck in the 9-5 grind and want to start over in a state with fewer rules, fewer regulations, and far away from government involvement.

You may want to homeschool your children and be completely disconnected from the electrical grid. Suppose you are looking for more freedom, fewer taxes, and the ability to do what you want on your land.

Do not choose these four states; they are the worst for off-grid living.

New York

New York has some of the strictest building codes about living off-grid. However, it is legal in remote/rural areas of NY, and each location will tell you precisely what you can and can not do in the county.

Some areas will require you to install automatic fire sprinklers, depending on the structure of the building. Also, there is no way around NY building codes, as inspections are required to get a Certificate of Occupancy.

You will be fined if you do not comply, which can go as high as 1,000 per day until compliance. You will also have to meet local zoning laws, which make a living entirely off-grid illegal; however, it is on a county-by-county basis.

Off-grid electricity is legal, but you must follow the building and inspection codes. And if you do not want electricity, you might not get approved for your Certificate of Occupancy.

All buildings must have plumbing and potable running water. Making it illegal to carry rainwater into your home to bathe in. To drill a well, it must be a registered contractor. Rainwater collecting is legal, but you must follow the Plumbing Code.

You must have an onsite sewage setup. You must check with a health inspector if you want a greywater recycling system. If you want a compost toilet, they are legal if you meet the NSF Standard 41 certified and have a warranty of up to 5 years.

You will need a permit for any heating system, including a wood stove. Sounds like you need approval to do anything in NY.

Homeschooling is legal as long as you follow the rules.

New Jersey

Another state that has lots of regulations and rules you must follow. You can only build a home with running water, a water heater, or electricity. As well as you must meet all the strict building codes, and you also have to be connected to a local sewer system.

Before moving in, you must also get a Certificate of Occupancy; you must have your utilities hooked up to receive your certificate. Camping on your property or turning it into a ¨public campground¨ is also illegal.

To build on your property, you must meet all the local zoning laws, and some might not allow you to have livestock, grow produce to sell, or have any business on your property.

According to the laws, you must have electricity; however, you can have off-grid solar as long as it meets all the codes and you have all the permits.

The property must also have water inside and one flush toilet, a kitchen sink, a bathtub, or a shower. If you are not connected to the city water, you must have a well drilled, as you are permitted to use the water on your property and the surface water with permission.

If you need to drill as well, you need a permit.

Rainwater collection is legal, but you must follow the rules on how to collect. If you collect rainwater, it must be used or emptied within three days.

You must have a sewer hook-up or a septic system. Compost toilets are legal, but only if you have an approved method of treating greywater. Outhouses are illegal, and greywater recycling is permitted as long as you have an approved way of disposal.

There are also strict rules on how you can reuse greywater. It is illegal to do your laundry or irrigate your yard with greywater. If you want a woodstove, you can have one if it meets state building codes.

However, homeschooling is legal if you follow the rules.


Living completely off-grid in Maryland might not be possible; however, it depends on what you seek. Maryland, as with the two above states, has stringent building codes.

Some laws also tell you what you can legally do with your property, such as if you can have livestock, chickens, or other dwelling units. However, agricultural zones have the least restrictions but can be expensive to buy as the lot size minimum is high.

You can camp on your land if you have Agricultural land. When you are building your house, you must stick to the strict building codes concerning plumbing, electricity, and any other work you have done, and you will have to have it all approved so you can get a certificate of occupancy.

Maryland has a Minimum Livability Code, which allows the government to condemn buildings that do not meet human habitation standards. However, the code is not for dwellings the owners live in, mainly the slumlords.

You must have running water and electricity, and you can have off-grid electricity if you have a code and permit and licensed electricity to do the work. Off-grid water is illegal in most places, and you must be connected to a municipal water supply, but there are exceptions for agricultural zones.

However, you can use water on your property, and obtaining water permits is easy. Yet, you do not need a permit for surface or groundwater for domestic use. You need a permit and a licensed driller if you want to drill a well.

Rainwater collection is legal, and you can use it to water your yard, but a permit is needed if you're going to use it indoors.

You need to be connected to a sewer system if available, and if there is not one nearby, you will need to get a septic tank. You can have a compost toilet, but if you want only one, you will need a permit, which can be difficult. An outhouse is illegal.

Homeschooling is legal with the proper paperwork.


Each county in Massachusetts has its zoning laws for your property. These laws dictate whether or not you can have chickens, livestock, or have a private well. The areas that are zoned Agricultural are more relaxed.

Off-grid electricity is legal; however, it is illegal not to have any power in your home, and you must have a certain number of electrical outlets. You also need a Certificate of Occupancy before you can live in a building. If you do not have electricity, you will not get your permit.

Depending on which county you live in, drilling wells in certain areas or situations may be illegal, making it challenging to use greywater and rainwater.

Massachusetts also has a Water Management Act, which means they can regulate water, and if you use more than 100,000 gallons of water per day for three consecutive months, you need a permit.

If you would like a well, a registered weller must drill it; it is up to the health department to regulate the well. They will require healthy water to be tested. Many counties require you to use the local water and sewer system. Some counties do not allow you to have private and public water.

Rainwater collection is legal and encourages it. Watering your yard with rainwater is permitted, but it is illegal to use it indoors. Using greywater, you must meet the requirements.

Compost toilets are legal only if you have an approved model and get approval from the local health department. Outhouses are illegal. Using greywater can be difficult, and the plumbing code will determine how you can use greywater.

If you would like a wood stove, get a permit and inspection.

Homeschooling is legal if you follow the rules.

Do you live in one of these states, off-grid, or are they too regulated and expensive?

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