In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Why is living in an RV illegal? We will review what the US law has to say about living full-time in an RV and give you advice on how to make the best of this experience.
Why is living in an RV illegal?
Living in an RV is not illegal in the US unless you are breaking certain state laws. In short, 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 parking your RV in your backyard, in front of your house, and even on your plot.
Generally speaking, you can live in your RV full-time and travel the world, but legally, you must have to declare a state of residence. Many RV enthusiasts use their family or friends’ houses as the address for their residency, vehicle registration and state driver’s licence.
Here’s where you should start if you want to live in an RV legally:
- It is best to rent or buy the land where you want to park your RV.
- Contact the country building office to enquire whether you need a permit.
- Get an address assigned to your lot and make the RV your official place of residence.
What does the US law say about living in an RV?
No law in the US prohibits living in an RV but those who decide to make this choice as an alternative to a traditional home must know that they will never be able to establish their residence in a travel trailer! And this is because it is not to be considered comparable to a traditionally understood house. In addition, no rest area or camping will ever give you the ok, as these are obviously accommodation facilities, just like hotels.
It is different if it is a Class A, B or C RV: in this case, you will be considered homeless and you will be able to access a special residence assignment. Then you will have to establish your domicile at the home of a relative or friend, in order to guarantee your availability. In any case, it should be specified that each municipality has its own regulation on the matter. And therefore a lot also changes according to the city you choose.
There are also, some requirements to meet:
- Regardless of the nature of the accommodation, you will still have the right to residency. However, to be truly compliant, your RV must be connected to electricity, sewers and all other services. Although much smaller, you will still pay the bills. Precisely because the RV will be fully considered as your home.
- If the RV will be placed on your property, then check the connection to the water and electricity networks. Alternatively, you will have to use the public ones. And then get the cadastral survey of the land and check that it is free from any slope.
Generally, those who choose to spend their life in a camper do it not only to satisfy their desire to travel or for the possibility of being able to move to a different place every day, but also to free themselves from the costs of running and maintaining a home. great.
In fact, those who work full time and spend very few hours a day in their home, perhaps only to sleep, could even incur unnecessary expenses that force them to spend a large part of their salary to pay bills, rents, condominium fees and mortgages.
How to live legally in an RV in the US
Well, it is clear that living in an RV is possible. But can it legally be done? We are going to see the two main possibilities that exist.
Option 1: Try to register
The first option is to try to make your van, motorhome or RV your official address. That is, officially register in it. It is possible, but very difficult, and only for certain situations.
First of all, you have to know that the legislation regarding these issues is largely transferred to the autonomies and municipalities, and although they all follow more or less the same main guidelines, the details may vary from one community to another.
To register and have your home vehicle as an official residence, the essential thing is that it has a certificate of occupancy. And it is practically impossible to get one for a van or motorhome type vehicle. That is, you can have your own land and have your caravan continuously parked on it.
Well, if you do not have a certificate of occupancy, it will be very difficult for any city council to give you a registration form. And what’s more, if a neighbour is a bit of a jerk and exposes you, you may even be fined for residing in a place without a happy habitability certificate.
Another option is to “move” to a campsite and reside there with your RV. Well, even if you are paying for your plot, all communities establish a maximum time that you can spend a year in a campsite. And they range from 6 to 11 months a year. Although the number of months varies, the idea is clear: You cannot live continuously and register at a campsite either.
Option 2: Live like a nomad
The second option is to live in a “nomadic” way. That is, without looking at a specific place. If you don’t “settle” in one place, your chances of getting into trouble with the authorities are reduced.
Living nomadic means that you can move and live anywhere in the world without too many ties. The only limits are those that you impose on yourself, such as climate issues. You can live moving around your same province, country or even around the world.
Living around the world may sound a bit like “science fiction”, but really, with a good mobile data connection, you can do any kind of telework from any corner of the world. Or you can also start a business or professional activity and live as a digital nomad.
The advantage of living with almost constant movement is that the authorities will treat you as just another traveller, and you will not have coexistence problems of any kind.
On the other hand, if your idea is to stay for long periods in the same area, you have two options: either move every three or four days from the place of the night or try to find a place where you do not attract attention or “turn out to be annoying” for no one. Being discreet you can surely stay in one place without too much trouble.
Is it dangerous to live in an RV?
Living in an RV is not dangerous as long as you take some precautions. Whether you opt for a camping holiday in a caravan, motorhome or tent, thefts are frequent. Although campground operators try to stem this phenomenon, it is impossible for them to eradicate it completely. In addition, the structure of some rentals favours theft.
However, it is possible for you to take certain appropriate measures, either by implementing sound advice or simply by using common sense:
- Take only “essential” valuables
- Always lock the door
- Invest in a good lock.
- Get motorhome insurance.
- Don’t be fooled by classic hiding places.
- Buy an alarm.
To protect yourself in a motorhome, take all the necessary precautions. Perimeter protection, carried out by magnetic sensors, concerns the exterior protection of the motorhome, it is effective day and night. The alarm is triggered when an attempt is made to force the doors of the driving position and the front door, but also bays or gates.
The bottom line
Please make sure that you discuss with your local city council and HOA regarding full-time living in an RV. While there will be no issues with renting a space in an RV park, living on your own land in a motorhome may be prohibited in some places.
If we can be of any help, or if you want to share your own experience with living in an RV, please let us know.
FAQ on Why is living in an RV illegal?
Can you buy land and live in an 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.
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.
It is legal to live in an RV in Arizona as long as you respect the laws and rules imposed by the city in which you are residing. It is important to know that some campsites in Arizona offer full-time lots to rent for RV-ers and that in some places you can even park on your own land. See the table below for more details.