In prepping circles, living “off the grid” is seen as the logical conclusion to the journey of personal preparedness and self-sufficiency. The idea of growing or otherwise creating everything you need and not relying on society or any of its trappings, including its public services, is definitely appealing.
But we live in an era of ever escalating increasingly invasive government overreach. We are only free so long as we evade the legions of laws and they’re hungry, hungry handcuffs following right behind. This begs the question: Is it even legal to live off the grid?
Yes, living off grid is legal in most places, although there is always a chance that local, state or even federal laws could interfere. Choosing a place to live off grid starts with a thorough assessment and understanding of these laws, and ensuring that you won’t run afoul of them.
Like many government interferences, this has more to it than you might first expect. Prop your eyelids open and keep reading to learn how you can stay on the right side of the law and beneath Uncle Sugar’s notice.
Generally You Can Live How and Where You Like
Thankfully, in America you can generally live where and how you want so long as you have a legal right to occupy the property you are living upon.
Obviously, if you want to make a go of it on someone else’s property or on government property there will be trouble if you are caught and it won’t matter any which way to the controlling party how nice your little homestead is.
If you want to live on a large acreage complete with your own solar or wind power generation setup, crops, pasturage for animals and subterranean bunker that is completely disconnected from settled areas both incorporated and unincorporated, you will likely be able to.
Similarly, if you want to go full hermit and live in a tiny cabin situated deep in the woods with no one and nothing else around to bother you and hardly anything to care for that is likewise an option.
At least for a little while longer, most Americans enjoy the right of self-determination regarding where they will live and how. That being said, not all places think all ways of living are permissible…
What’s Mine is Mine, and What’s Yours is… Also Mine!
If you can believe this, several states and many localities have laws governing whether or not you can actually collect rainwater for personal use and if you are allowed actually have the gall to dictate what you can use it for personally.
This is the state of the country we live in; bureaucrats lay claim to the very rain that falls from the sky as inherently theirs. If you want to make use of it, you’ll have to abide by their dictates…
There are other restrictions that can severely impede your off-grid lifestyle.
It could be anything from accessing a remote property in the form of easements for driveways to building codes necessitating certain styles and guidelines for designing your domicile and the standards to which it must be built.
Even a requirement that any home using electricity be tied to an electrical grid so that it can be monitored and taxed appropriately.
If you are going to live off-grid and have the picture-perfect spot picked out, whatever your idea of off-grid bliss looks like you must compare every, single facet of your home, your property, your plans for collecting and managing resources, everything, against every set of laws in the land if you want to stay on the right side of Uncle Sugar.
“Off-Grid” Means Different Things to Different People
It is worth clarifying exactly what is meant by the term “off-grid.” Like so many terms in the popular prepper vernacular, it has gone from a strict description to more of a notion, or shorthand for various concepts.
Originally, living off-grid meant simply disconnected from the power grid, meaning one would go without electricity entirely, unless you could supply it or generate it yourself by whatever means.
Then the concept morphed over time to mean living completely disconnected from societal services, power, of course, still included but also sewer, water and the like.
Today some folks only classify the most remote and secluded living as truly off-grid owing to the preponderance of delivery, goods and other services we have at our fingertips.
Accordingly, it is useful to quantify what obstacles to off-grid living you might encounter depending on how you classify off-grid as a concept. If you live in the middle of the suburbs, especially one with an HOA, you probably will not be permitted to have your home forgo connection to an electrical grid, sewer system and so forth.
However, just because you live in a rural, wide open part of a traditionally free, conservative state does not mean you can do whatever you want without consequence.
Rain and especially drainage laws are big, big deals in places like that and it won’t take much complaining from a neighbor to get the authorities sicced on you if they think you are depriving their land of needed rainfall or if any sort of drainage from your property is interfering with theirs.
Access Rights are Essential
Similarly, purchasing one of these remote properties in the middle of nowhere does not mean you will have easy and unfettered access to it.
Every single square foot of land you drive across, walk across or otherwise traverse belongs to someone and you must have either the right or the permission of the property owners to cross it by any means in order to access your property.
Many perspective off-grid preppers screw up big time here, assuming that they have a right to get to their property however they see fit.
This is another point of contention regarding the law that you’ll have to research thoroughly before you pull the trigger on a property purchase. Right of access, easements, maintenance of such easements and more will all factor into your decision.
If you buy a property that is completely surrounded by the property of others, a condition called “landlock” in real estate parlance, then you’ll need to get special permission from the surrounding owners of said properties for you to travel over, an easement, or purchase land from them to attach to your own.
And guess what? They are under no legal obligation to grant you an easement to legally access your property or sell you any parcel! You’ll just be S.O.L. unless you can fly a helicopter out to it! You might laugh, but this precise problem comes up a lot more than you’d think!
Deciding to “go rogue” and violate someone else’s property rights is trespassing, and not only unethical but also a great way to get slapped with serious criminal charges, charges that the state will be all too happy to bring against you.
Living off-grid is nominally legal, though no matter where you go and how you choose to live your life there will always be at least a few laws you’ll have to contend with.
Restrictions on property type and usage, utility connection status, property access rights and even whether or not it is legal to catch rain and how you’ll use rainwater can all interfere with those who want to live a completely self-sufficient, off-grid lifestyle.
You should not let this dissuade you from attempting it, but it is in your best interest to thoroughly research all relevant local, state and federal laws before committing to the purchase or construction of any real property.
Tom Marlowe grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, He has the experience in helping civilian shooters figure out what firearms work best for them.
1 thought on “Is It Legal to Live Off the Grid in the USA?”
I have access to some property along a river ( that is so polluted with run off from farm land and feed lots and really stinks once in a while on hot days. Dad once told me that growing up along that river when it was nice and clear ), the houses ( 2 ) are still there, although only the small one I think is fixable. and maybe livable. But the way things are going in the bigger cities and around the country makes a person want to reconsider different life options. But being in my mid 70’s, is it a good choice ? The closest town is 12 to 14 miles away, the closest neighbor is 2 miles in either directions ( and that town has a doctor and hospital and the next doctor and hospital is 30 miles or so away ). I guess I’ll maybe I’ll just stay here whether I like it or not. But then again I would be closer to the cemetery where my wife is buried