Skip to Content

Can I Have a Shipping Container in My Backyard Legally? (Yes…But)

Can I Have a Shipping Container in My Backyard Legally? (Yes…But)

In recent years, shipping containers have now become a popular option for traditional homes. Most people now prefer to invest in little living spaces, and a shipping container may be an affordable and durable alternative.

As you see several homeowners set up container homes, and that may have you wondering, can I have a shipping container in my backyard? Is it legal to have a shipping container just for storage purposes?

So having a shipping container in your backyard is legal but depending on what the shipping container is being used for. The legality of getting a shipping container in your backyard also will have to depend on where you are living. Many state and county laws differ depending on where one lives, so you should ask your local council before you can bring a shipping container to your backyard.

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

Can I Have a Shipping Container on My Property?

The legality of possessing a shipping container on your property is one of the first difficulties of most homeowners who want to own the alternative home structure. It is also the same as for anyone who wishes to have a shipping container simply for temporary storage. In most cases, YES, one can have a shipping container on their property.

Start by understanding that there are specific regulations and licenses involved. You will need to think about getting permits or maybe consider if there’s a necessity to obtain a permit just to have a shipping container on your property.

5 Possible Reasons For Getting a Shipping Container

Shipping containers aren’t only tough and reliable but they are also extremely durable. This makes it possible to modernize them for any purpose or commerce according to your unique needs. You may choose to use them in their original form for storage, or cut windows, install doors, and subdivide the space into multiple rooms to modify them into more of user-friendly spaces.

 Now let’s look at the reasons why people do get shipping container or why you should also get one if you are interested.


The container is its warehouse, protecting the cargo it contains. This means that simpler and slightly expensive packaging for containerized cargoes, mainly consumer goods. The stacking capacity on ships, trains (double-stacking), and on the bottom (container yards) may be a net advantage of containerization. With the right equipment, a container yard can increase its stacking density.

Security and safety

The container contents are usually unknown to carriers since it may only be opened at the origin (seller/shipper), at customs, and the final destination it reaches (buyer). This means reduced spoilage and losses (theft).


Containers are often used to carry a large variety of goods like commodities (coal, wheat), assembled goods, cars, and refrigerated (perishable) goods. There are modified containers for dry cargo, liquids (oil and chemical products), and also refrigerated cargo. Discarded containers are often recycled and reused for other purposes.

Seasonal use

You can get a shipping container in anticipation of a certain need in your business. For example, retailers may have to rent a refrigerated container during peak shopping seasons, like Easter and Christmas holidays to store perishable food items that are in high demand. This can make it easier to restock these commodities and keep your sales up for the duration. Once the demand for the perishable items reduces, you can return the container

Short-term construction project

Most construction sites choose to use small portable and hardy sea containers as their on-site offices and also storage areas. However, long-term construction projects find it more economical to pay for a shipping container, renting one may be the better option for a one-off short-term construction, destruction, or renovating project.

Do I Need a Permit To Put a Shipping Container on My Property?

You may need to check your local laws to see if setting a shipping container on your property is regarded legal. You might also want to check if you have signed a neighborhood agreement when purchasing your property. Try to see if the neighborhood you’re in has set some limits on what you can do on the property.

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

When collecting a permit to get a shipping container on your property, you will most likely provide the following information :

  • The physical location of the container on your property.
  • How is the physical condition of the container you are about to bring
  • Rules and regulations in your area
  • The extended time your container will sit on your property
  • How your neighbours or residents in the area will be affected by the presence of the container

Read: Can You Live in a House Without Electricity Legally? (Yes. You Can)

Do I Need a Building Permit For a Shipping Container?

Some cities do need building permission even if the main use of the container is for temporary storage only. This is because most cities made it necessary to have a foundation for your container. So before you can buy a container, ensure you get the permits and paperwork done work all done.

On the other side, some cities or even states permit shipping containers to stay on your property as long as it follows specific criteria.

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

  • Containers are used as storage only
  • Containers should not be used as shops, studios, hobby rooms, offices, lunchrooms, sales areas, playhouses, or other similar uses
  • Containers are not used for storage of motorized passenger vehicles
  • Containers are not stacked on top of each other
  • Containers aren’t categorized as a High-Hazard Group H occupancy
  • Containers are not to be equipped with plumbing or electrical power or lighting.

That being said, if your container does not meet the above standards, you may need to meet the possible 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 conversant in the regulations place in your area.

Can I Put A Shipping Container In My Yard?

This will mostly rely on the overall intention of the shipping container. Are you setting the container to serve as storage space? Or do you need a shipping container home in case the need arises? Once you know the answer, it’s uncertain for you to break the law.

If you are planning for a classy shipping container home, ensure that you are clear about the structure you would like to have. And also, you may need to specify if it is going to be used as a primary dwelling, constructed as a relaxation home, or put up as a rental home. At this point, you’ll need to hold to zoning and building codes, as previously mentioned.

Can I Have a Shipping Container in My Garden?

Shipping containers are a fashionable choice of structures to keep in our gardens. They can be turned into garden cabins or even a place where you can grow plants indoors.

The problem with setting a shipping container in your garden is that you have to ensure that it isn’t visible to other people. Most city statutes will allow shipping containers in gardens if it doesn’t evolve an eyesore to nearby residents.

If your property isn’t examined by a landscaping feature (e.g. boundaries or decorative boundary walls) or a fence, then it is not a good idea to get a shipping container in your garden. This is because the container shouldn’t be noticeable from adjacent streets.

But if you want to, then think about the best location for your container. For example, if the only adjacent street is at the front street, then you’ll need to position the container at the back of your house. This will most possible be where your garden area is.

As mentioned a while ago, a temporary use permit may be approved to you. This permit will certify you to use the storage container for a maximum of 180 days. But If you want to put up a permanent container structure, like turn it into a house, then you simply need to apply for a special permit.

If you intend to have a shipping container in your garden for longer periods or maybe stay there permanently, always keep it in mind that it should first comply with local building codes.

Having a container on your property also means that you need to be cautious of how it’ll affect the neighbourhood. The best thing you will be able to do is to keep it out from public view. If not, you can simply paint it so that it blends in together with your surroundings.


In summary, you will be able to have a shipping container in your backyard looking on your use case. More importantly, however, you ought to become familiar with the statutes to follow so that you can legally have a shipping container on your property anytime you want to.

It’s perfectly legal to have this structure in your backyard. You can build a house, a playhouse, a guest house, a garden, and even office space with a shipping container. Just make sure you are straight about the reason for the container. Whether you are using it as housing or storage, different rules could apply in different states. 

Some states or cities won’t even allow shipping containers in residential neighbourhoods. Others do allow them but only for a restricted time. That said, rules and regulations regarding shipping containers in backyards will differ in different places.

If you’re not sure, do your research and always ask the council about your laws so you don’t go and do something against it and may put you in big trouble. The last thing you will expect is to pay for a large sum of money for shipping containers only to later, have them removed because you did not obtain the proper paperwork for you to have them on your property.