Minimal “Owner-Built Code” in Cochise County, Arizona

Beautiful Cochise County, Arizona
Beautiful Cochise County, Arizona

Hi Owen, I plan to build in Cochise County, Arizona and they have what they call an “Owner Built” building permit program (for rural residential dwellings) that does not require regular inspections, etc. Owners can build pretty much anything they want as long as they apply, and pay for, a permit. After that there are no inspections or approvals.

The only “catch” I can see is that you don’t get an actual “Certificate of Occupancy” since the new building was never inspected along the way. Because of that it would probably be difficult to sell the property and maybe even getting it insured might also prove difficult. Anyway, because of the County’s lenient attitude towards “owner built” alternative houses I plan to build in Cochise County.”

Cochise County is east of Tucson on the Mexico border. Notes from the Cochise, AZ website:
This amendment is intended to encourage the use of ingenuity and personal preferences of the owner-builder in allowing and facilitating the use of alternative building materials and methods.

The building or structure is to be Owner-Built, or built for occupancy of the owner by licensed contractors with the owner-builder acting as the General Contractor.

– Option 1: Full Construction Plan Review with Limited Building Code Inspection
– Option 2: No Construction Plan Review with No Building Code Inspection
– four acres or more
– this exemption does not exempt owner-builders from statewide codes such as the plumbing and fire codes and regulations regarding smoke detectors, nor does it exempt owner-builders from fire codes
– Fireplaces, cooling, heating, cooking appliances and gas piping installed in buildings constructed pursuant to this amendment shall be installed and vented in accordance with the requirements contained in the currently adopted Cochise County Building Safety Code.
– Where electrical wiring or appliances are installed, the installation shall be in accordance with the provisions contained in the currently adopted Cochise County Building Safety Code.
– No dwelling or accessory structure constructed pursuant to this amendment shall be required to be connected to a source of electrical power, or wired, or otherwise fitted for electrification.
– In structures where electrical usage is confined to one or more rooms of a structure, the remainder of the structure shall not be required to be wired
– Plumbing equipment, systems and installation shall be in accordance with the requirements contained in the Cochise County Building Safety Code and the Cochise County Health Department regulations. Alternative materials and methods shall be permitted provided that the design complies with the intent of the County codes and regulations.
– there are sale and rent restrictions
– building permit expires after 36 months if not completed

Notes from the Cochise County FAQ page:
– okay to live in a mobile home or mobile tiny house for up to three years as your permanent house is being built
– Arizona property owners can design and build their own residential structures by themselves or hire a licensed contractor.
– only a small hand drawn sketch is required for showing location of structures on your land

The cob/strawbale house in yesterday’s video is near Bisbee, AZ in Cochise County. One concern I have is being so close to the Mexico border.

12 thoughts on “Minimal “Owner-Built Code” in Cochise County, Arizona”

  1. I just bought land in Cochise county (.86 acres). What is the next thing i need to do to make it livable? Any advice will be much appreciated ??

  2. Rattlesnakes should not be killed. They are easy to catch in a metal garbage can. Lay it on the ground and simply rake them in, they typical do not ‘run’ away. Then relocate the critters. I’m building an office\house in Cochise county, my neighbor is in a rammed earth home that is wonderful. Been in many parts of the U.S. Cochise county is the best. P.S. don’t tell anybody.

    • Zeb. You know any brokers out your way? I can only find internet scammers.
      I’m looking for land out there. Thank You!

    • do people want to build homes around rattlesnakes and scorpions can you keep them away from your property heard there may be a way let me know

    • From their website it appears that this option is still in force, but you might check with the county to make sure.

  3. Water: U will need a well. HEAT: Yes, it’s hot out here,(you do your chores in the morning, if possible, stay inside during the day & at night, when it’s cooler, venture back out. Rattlesnakes: Yep, they’re here(killed 4 last year & I so far, this year). Scorpions: They’re here also, (usually under rocks, old fence posts, etc.) They are more afraid of U than vice versa. Been here going on 6 yrs. … Cochise County will be ‘doing away w/ the Owner Built Option in the near future. Not for everyone, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • “Cochise County will be ‘doing away w/ the Owner Built Option in the near future.”
      Is that your opinion or do you have some evidence of that?

      I live in Cochise Cochise county and I’ve not heard anything about them getting rid of that amendment and I can’t find anything about them getting rid of it mentioned anywhere on the cochise county website.

      P.s. Much of Cochise County is above 4000 ft elevation. It’s not all that hot, in fact it’s hotter in Portland Or.
      Where I live it rarely gets over 100 degrees. 5 days this year it just barely peaked over 100. Record high temp is 106 (happened one time), second highest record is 104(happened one time).
      It’s also not too cold during the winter. While it often gets below freezing at night, it’s typically above freezing by mid morning, even in January its common to see daytime temps in the low 50s-60s.
      Record low temp here is 6 degrees, second coldest day was 11 degrees F.

      • This is an old article, and I suggest anyone interested in building there should contact the county and find out what they say.

  4. This caught my eye the second time around — good thing about the new weekly updates! Cochise County is not too far from where we live in NM. We’re happy where we are but it’s always interesting to know more. I’d be concerned about lack of water, heat, rattlesnakes, and scorpions…


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