Is living in an RV considered homeless?

Is living in an RV considered homeless? We will discuss whether it is legal to live in an RV and if an RV Park is an option to even take into consideration for full-time RV living. 

Is living in an RV considered homeless?

If you are living in an RV, you are not considered homeless as long as your motorhome has running water (aka access to the bathroom, toilet) cooking facilities (oven/ microwave/fridge) and sleeping space. You can claim your RV as your primary residence in almost any state in the US. 

Thus, a person who is living in an RV is not considered homeless if one meets the following three criteria:

  1. The RV has a bathroom with running water, cooking facilities and a sleeping space.
  2. The land that the RV is parked on is either legally owned or leased by the person for 30 days or more. 
  3. The RV is connected to the mandatory utilities (sewer, trash, electricity, water, internet, etc). 

As long as all three criteria are met, one can consider the RV as their home. Living in an RV in a public parking space is not, unfortunately, considered as having a house. The tenant doesn’t own the land nor has access to basic utilities. 

According to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a person who lives “in a place not meant for human habitation” and a “private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings” is considered a homeless person. 

Moreover, persons sleeping overnight in their personal car or in vehicles that no longer are on the road but do not meet the above-mentioned criteria, are considered homeless

Is it illegal to live in an RV?

The answer is that it is NOT illegal to live in an RV. However, that doesn’t mean you can park the recreational vehicle (RV) anywhere you want. Even if you own the land, there are sometimes local ordinances against living in an RV within city limits or county-wide limits.

A few years ago HUD (United States Department of Urban Housing Development) regulations made many permanent RVers uncomfortable and there was an explosion of posts that HUD was making it illegal to live permanently in such a structure.

This news brought a lot of stress to those who already lived with this lifestyle and to those who had the dream of starting a small house or an RV where they would live full time.

HUD changed some of the definition in its regulations, but the reality was that prior to this 2016 update of HUD’s rules, it was already illegal to live in an RV. HUD regulations state that the RV design is for recreational use and not as a primary home for continuous occupancy.

So why did they have to redefine the regulations? The popularity of RVs and tiny home life had many cities dealing with the influx of RVs and miniature houses on wheels on private property with people living in them permanently. And that is where the conflict is, private properties where there are ordinances that prohibit these mobile homes as permanent housing.

But of course, there are designated RV campgrounds and mobile home parks that meet all required zoning standards almost everywhere. These are available as rentals and as lots that you can buy.

Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people throughout the United States and Canada live full time in RVs. Mostly, retirees follow the weather year-round, the southern parts of the US in winter, heading north when the summer heats up.

Generally speaking, it is completely legal to live in a mobile home, except in places that have already been mentioned where there is a particular ordinance. 

Living in an RV Park: How is it?

Campsites are places associated with vacations or, at most, with a second home for foreigners who spend long periods travelling, but… can we turn a campsite into our primary residence? 

This type of space, which allows accommodation in motorhomes or bungalows, can be more attractive than it seems at first. Many people contemplate the possibility of spending long periods in those close to the urban areas of large cities.

A fixed rate of about 450 dollars includes accommodation, television, WiFi, air conditioning, heating, full kitchen, bed with sheets, a gas cylinder per month, drinking water, 200 kW of electricity, shower linen, etc. cases, even a swimming pool. An ‘all-inclusive’ also has discounts for retirees or students, who pay close to 300 euros.

This has caused some campsites to become an excellent alternative to traditional housing, either with a mortgage or rent. We must also add a series of extra expenses that considerably raise the final budget. The crisis has promoted this type of accommodation among students or young couples, but there are some limitations.

Although this ‘lifestyle’ may have some advantages… it must be taken into account that it is forbidden by law to live permanently in a campsite (although this does not prevent people from doing so). In this way, to the question, we asked initially: is it possible to convert a campsite into our first home? The ‘legal’ answer is: “no”.

Regarding the terms, it is up to each autonomous community to legislate in this regard so that while some states allow living 11 months a year, most communities only give permits for six or seven months. In short, we can have a plot rented on the campsite all year round, but our stay is limited by law.

One of the main reasons that justify this prohibition is that no one can register at a campsite. It is necessary to have an ‘official’ address to do so.

Many people live the whole year in a campsite, changing the name of the rental contract of the plot every six months (between partners or couples) and registering with the parents’ home, for example. Would anyone dare to try?

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FAQ on Is living in an RV considered homeless?

Can you buy land and live in RV?

Yes, you can buy land and live in an RV, but the legality of this will depend on the state you reside in. Most places do not allow one to live in an RV parked in their backyard, for example. 

Is it legal to live in an RV full time?

It is both legal and illegal to live in an RV full time. It all will depend on where you keep your RV parked and if you managed to make it your full address. You must speak with the HOA or/and the local council and ask whether you need a permit for it. 

Can you claim an RV as a primary residence?

In most states, you can claim an RV as a primary residence for tax purposes. As long as your RV has a bathroom/toilet, kitchen, bedroom – it is considered a home. 


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