RVs have become a symbol of freedom in the modern world. Most people who invest in RVs intend to use them as mobile homes. However, not all RV owners seek to travel. Some want to park their RV on their land and move into it permanently.
It encourages a minimalist lifestyle while also reducing the cost of living. But living in your RV full-time can be complicated.
Full-time RV living makes the vehicle a permanent residence, meaning it has to adhere to local and state building codes and regulations. Unfortunately, these rules vary between states and even counties.
So before you buy and live in an RV, it’s important to understand some of the rules and legalities of your plan. We have extensively researched and compiled important information about the laws regarding RV living in the United States.
Is it legal to live in an RV in the US?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Generally, living in an RV in the US is legal, but you must abide by some rules, whether you’re backpacking or using it as a permanent residence. Some states allow you to live permanently in your camper, while others consider it illegal.
Furthermore, living in an RV on your property is illegal in other states, such as New York and Wyoming. Because you’re using the RV’s facilities full time, the US government will consider it your home, but it goes against zoning laws in some states.
Also, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development doesn’t classify them as permanent dwellings. The US government states that RVs should only be for travel, recreational or camping purposes.
In Canada, you’re not allowed to live in your RV year-round as it is not considered a residential building under Canadian Building Code. However, the rules vary on duration and parking location for extended stays depending on the city and province.
For instance, in Ontario, you can use your RV for accommodation for up to 120 days within the municipality.
You have two options if you want to permanently live in your RV without any legal issues in the US:
Move your RV to an RV park
The easiest and best way to permanently live in your camper in the United States is to rent a plot at a registered RV park. These parks generally offer water, electricity, sewer, and other utilities without breaking laws. However, not every RV park allows long-term living. So ensure you consult your designated park before setting up your camper there.
Travel the country in your RV
Alternatively, you can tour the country in your RV and stop at designated campsites for a while. Since you’re not in one place for a long time, you shouldn’t run into any legal issues. However, you need a special driver’s license to travel nationwide and across state lines.
For more information on full-time RV living in your state and county, check the following to ensure you’re on the right side of the law.
- City building/planning departments
- County zoning law
- City beautification and nuisance laws
- HOA bylaws or covenants applied to your deed
Can you actually live in an RV?
Yes. There are millions of Americans who live in their campers full time. However, most people move into their RV during the summer and travel around for the occasional vacation. But that’s different from living full-time in an RV.
There are several reasons why people opt to live permanently in their camper, but it’s worth noting that no recreational vehicle is built and sold to become a full-time residence. All RV manufacturers affirm that RVs are meant for occasional leisure use only.
Furthermore, moving into your RV full-time will put a lot of pressure on every rig system, reducing the RV’s longevity.
So it’s important to understand how to live in an RV, the pros and cons, and how to live in an RV before selling your home and committing to the lifestyle.
Can you live in an RV on your land in Texas?
Yes. The state laws in Texas allow people to live in their RVs on their properties. However, you must apply for proper permits and have access to a septic tank, water, and power. Rural areas and small towns with wide-open spaces have relaxed ordinances regarding RV living.
Here are a few other states where it is completely legal to move into your RV on your land:
- New York
- South Dakota
- Washington State
However, even for the states that allow RV living, you must apply for proper permits and adhere to building codes and regulations. Usually, you must have a suitable septic system, water facilities, adequate AC equipment depending on location, and sufficient ceiling and wall access to public utilities before living in your RV full time, even on your land.
Your RV must also have smoke alarms, windows that open and close, and sometimes carbon monoxide detectors. Eventually, a local building inspector will come to ensure your RV complies with all the city and county codes.
In other cities like Daytona, you need to adhere to local zoning codes when living in an RV on your property; they include:
- You can park up to five vehicles on your property, and only one can be an RV.
- Your RV must not connect to water, electricity, or gas services.
- Your RV must not be more than 30 feet in length.
- Your RV must be kept operable and carry an up-to-date license or registration.
You can also claim your RV as a home with the IRS for tax purposes. Declaring your RV as your primary residence allows your homeowner tax deductions.
Can I live in my RV on my property in California?
It is illegal to live in your RV permanently in California. Local ordinance prohibits living permanently in an RV on your property. This is because an RV is considered a vehicle and not home in California. Moreover, most HOAs do not allow parking the RV in your backyard or driveway for more than two days.
Although there is no specific California law on the books that makes RV living illegal, several laws and regulations on the city and county levels restrict where and how long you can park your RV. For instance, you can live full-time in your RV in RV parks, campgrounds, or BLM(Bureau of Land Management) land.
Also, you can live in your RV on your property for six months to a year if you’re building a permanent home. Although there is no permanent home on your land, your RV will qualify as an Accessory Dwelling Unit during that transitional time.
You cannot register your trailer as a permanent legal residence in California; you still need an official home address.
How long can you live in an RV on your land?
Every jurisdiction has zoning laws that dictate the type of dwellings allowed in certain areas within a county or city. Zoning includes home size, number of rooms, number of dwellings allowed on a particular property, and presence of farm animals.
So, for you to live in your RV on your property, you must adhere to these zoning laws, varying from state to state and county to county.
Most zoning laws allow landowners to live in their RV for up to 6-12 months. In this case, this is permissible to home builders. Zoning laws in less restrictive states allow RVs living on your property as permanent residents if they meet the same housing codes as traditional homes. This includes sewer access or a septic system, access to fresh water, power, and other home safety devices.
Living in your RV or camper is not illegal as long as you adhere to codes for living in a camper, which vary from state to state. However, cities have rather restrictive laws, but rural towns with open spaces are particularly friendly to RV living.
Either way, since your RV is considered your home. You must adhere to local zoning laws such as access to water, power, and sewage facilities. Therefore, it’s important to research the local laws regarding RV living before moving into your camper permanently.