Is it Legal to live in a Camper in Your Backyard? An Expert Guide

Is it Legal to live in a Camper in Your Backyard

Last Updated on September 26, 2020 by Michael J. Branco

Every year, the amount of R.V. owners who decide to live in their camper tends to increase. Because of many benefits when you live in R.V., such as mobility, savings, and debt repayment, many people choose to reduce their living conditions and start dwelling in a campervan instead of living in a complete man-made home. It’s not strange to hear people planning to prepare the land for camper installations rather than building brick houses. Then, they go ahead to park a camper and dwell there. Moreover, this occurs due to the random belief that they can do so without restrictions. This thus raises the question, is it legal to live in a camper in your backyard? 

Is it Legal to live in a Camper in Your Backyard?

To effectively answer this, you must first ask yourself these questions:

  • Who owns the land on which you plan to park the camper?
  • Do you plan to live full time in the campers?
  • Where are you currently living?

Who Owns the Land on which you Plan to Park the Camper?

is it legal to live in a camper in your backyard

First of all, before we can provide answers to this question, “Is it legal to live in a camper in your backyard?” you must first answer this question. This is important because it will determine if you are entering without permission. If your answer to this question is yes, then you have scaled over the first obstacle. Therefore, you can park and live in your R.V. on your land.

As far as the law, you must need to know the Recreational Vehicle Parking Laws. 

Recreational Vehicle Parking Laws

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Recreational vehicles are made with the intent of recreational usage. They aren’t built to be considered a permanent home; therefore, national housing laws don’t apply. When that exact R.V. turns into a permanent fixture, then things start to become dicey.

Based upon location, many people can get away years of calm fulltime R.V. living in their private property, but others find themselves in hot water straight away.

There’s no rhyme or reason to many laws about living on your R.V.; however, I’ll do my best to break down the main ones to you.

During this section, I’ll get into more detail about the HUD (USA Department of Urban Housing Development) regulations, which had many permanent RVers uncomfortable a couple of years ago. I’ll even go over the zoning laws that you will encounter through your journey to being a landowner who lives and parks within their R.V. full time.

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The HUD Scare

Back in 2016, there was an explosion of postings to RVer and tiny home online forums and also talk amongst full-time RVers, which HUD was rendering it illegal to reside permanently in this kind of structure.

This news brought lots of stress for people living under such situations and people who had a fantasy to commence a tiny home or R.V. living regularly.

HUD change several languages within their regulations; however, the simple fact was before the 2016 upgrade towards the HUD rules. It was illegal to live in a R.V. HUD regulations say the R.V. design is for recreational use and never meant as being a critical home for continuous residence.

Why did they need to reevaluate regulations? The prevalence of R.V. and miniature home living had many cities working with an influx of R.V.s and mini homes on brakes on private property with people living included permanently.

Were those structures that home under HUD rules, or were they temporary home? Therefore, this caution has been crucial; officials may upgrade local zoning laws to manage these particular specific issues.

The regulations for R.V.s failed to incorporate those more prominent than 400 square feet. With the boost in the size of several fifth wheels and park model recreational vehicles surpassing the 400 square-foot, the R.V. manufacturing industry could demand this caution to keep recreational vehicles exempt in Manufactured Home regulations imposed by HUD.

Together with the newly made R.V.s and park models, many average motorhomes and fifth wheel campers were building decks, patios, or screen porch extensions on their shop. These developments transcend the authentic 400-square-foot limitation on living space and make it appear they’re turning their kayak right to a full-time domicile.

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What HUD Explains? 

The HUD outline explains the need for warning inside the home collections between a recreational vehicle (R.V.), a manufactured home, and a usual residence.

HUD’s proposal could specify a recreational vehicle being a factory-built vehicular architecture having a design for recreational use only and not to use as a permanent dwelling. They must find certification later manufacture according to the American National Standards Institute recreational park trailer standard and even the National Fire Protection Association’s recreational vehicle standards.

People who have or are thinking about purchasing a tiny house built in a trailer, the criteria where it’s made will ascertain whether or not it’s an R.V. or perhaps even a permanent arrangement safe for continuous residency. The new proposition dictates that in case your tiny house is constructed to NFPA or ANSI standards, it’s an R.V., also certainly will face local zoning law regulations such.

Depending upon your situation, this may be quite a bad or good thing. When you’ve got an R.V., you can’t lawfully live permanently inside it in many areas of the country. When they certify your small home trailer for being a dwelling, local building code regulations will use to the way and where one could park.

HUD and R.V. Industry

Within this new proposition, HUD and the R.V. industry agree that the most crucial differentiation will probably remain which manufactured homes are developed to be always a permanent house as the cornerstone of R.V. design. And construction standards are for families to rely on them for recreational, camping, or even seasonal accommodation only.

Provided that the R.V. industry builds into the nationally-recognized R.V. standards, modern R.V.s won’t come under HUD’s authority, which protects HUD from becoming a concern you living in your land on your recreational vehicle for a short time.

Thus if you intend to reside full time on your R.V., what will impact your eligibility to park onto your property? Local zoning laws.

Another section is the most massive roadblock to parking an R.V. in your property, therefore knowing what to search for and the appropriate questions to ask is likely to create this powerful task somewhat more superficial.

Read More: How to Back Up a Trailer

Zoning Laws

Zoning Laws

Virtually almost every U.S. community where zoning laws exist, they may consider R.V.s a momentary shield meant for just thirty successive days or not of occupancy.

If your property isn’t zoned for recreational vehicle living, then it’s illegal for one to live on your property.

People who wish to take pleasure in the freedom and ease of this R.V. lifestyle and be held hostage at the cost of a stick-built home. This incapacity to park and then also are living in a R.V. in your property appears unfair.

Many people do not even consider the rules that could connect with their R.V. house, such as I did once I presumed living in my kid’s land could be trendy. There’s a gap between rural and urban R.V. living zoning laws; therefore, let us enter this today.

How long do you plan to stay in the camper?

Do you plan on living in a trailer for a short or long time? Besides, would you treat it as your permanent residence? If your answer to this question is positive, then you may encounter an issue. The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department has regarded campers as tools for only recreational purposes. This implies that they are only made for seasonal use and camping. Therefore, you must not regard it as a permanent home. If you only live for a short time, then you may be lucky to get away with it quickly. On the other hand, if you plan to dwell in the camper in your backyard permanently, you may encounter some problems.

Where are you Currently Living?

Finally, where are you currently living? This question is of significant importance because all states have put up various laws regarding zoning. In summary, these laws entail rules which regulate how certain lands in a region are used. For example, do you live in a rural or urban area? The zoning laws in these areas are quite different.

Rural Areas

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In rural areas, the R.V. can be parked and used as a full-time residence. However, the landowner must obtain the appropriate permit and be inspected. Also, there are benefits to park your R.V. in rural areas. There are more R.V. owners camping in this part than in cities, so you can adequately assess the “legitimacy” of R.V. camping in the chosen area.

Also, rural areas are more likely to witness relaxed enforcement, especially about your R.V. residence. This doesn’t imply that you should relax extremely. It is best if you are not familiar with a certain area, ask where all R.V.s park. If it is an allocated campsite or plot, then go there. In case, you don’t have your land, this will be your best choice. If only a group of R.V. owners decide to set up a camp together on land zoned for recreational vehicle living, that is also a great option for you. In rural areas, you might need a sewer tank. Get this one;

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Urban Areas

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In urban areas, the regulations for those who choose to live in motor homes or practice R.V. life are much stricter. The zoning laws of metropolitan areas generally do not permit R.V.s in cities. Also, some urban areas even prohibit parking an empty R.V. on open land. Also, in commercial-intensive cities, zoning laws and enforcement are stricter. To be in safety, do always put up an assumption that the law prohibits you from living in a motor home permanently unless otherwise stated. You must understand that many other residents prefer people living in traditional houses to R.V.s. It could be for safety or other environmental considerations, but it’s still advisable to adhere to the appropriate camper rules to prevent any issues or complaints from neighbors.

In all, the answer to our anchor question is, “it is dependent.” It is worth noting that it mainly depends on your chosen area and length of stay. On the other hand, if you live in a city, that will not happen. However, if your dream is to live in a camper in your backyard, it’s best not to give up immediately. You may have to change your location, which will require a lot of stress, but it is possible. For this, the following ought to be done:

Set up a Schedule

Driving an R.V. on the road is quite tricky, but it will be more difficult once you choose to live permanently in one. This is why you ought to set up a proper schedule to know when the date is and avoid accidental camping.

Check the National Regulations and Laws

Do check the country’s regulations and laws with regards to trailer life. As mentioned earlier, zoning laws vary about your area. Do ensure to conduct a thorough inspection, and you may find an excellent place to stay. If this happens, you only need to work on the necessary paperwork. Once you comply with the governing laws on motor homes in your region, you won’t encounter any problems.

Set up a Route Map

Because the “unknown excitement” makes the travel more exciting, some motor home travelers prefer to walk around blindly. On the other hand, it’s best to set up a route map. This is usually a comprehensive map containing an outline of your route, most especially for beginners.

Prepare your Supplies Adequately 

One of the common issues with accidentally camping is that supplies must be made. If you do not understand the R.V. laws in your chosen city and sleep in an R.V. in the area, you may be fined. Thus, it’s best to prepare your supplies adequately. This includes:

Vehicle documents and other necessary personal documents

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Prepare your Home

Although you are ready to convert your R.V. into a home, many people tend to forget to prepare the house. The tip you won’t hear from many R.V. blogs is that you ought to not (except family members and friends) announce that you are going on a trip with your R.V. and leaving your home. This would result in advertising to thieves that your house can be robbed in your absence.

Seek for a Safe Place

If you are searching for a place where you can live in an all-weather camper, the most comfortable option might be a secluded place, far away from towns and the human community. We do not recommend that you go to such an area because it is prone to security risks. Therefore, make sure to opt for an area near or within a town.

In summary, getting campers to live in is entirely possible. But if you cannot live within your camper’s city limits, you need to find a suitable piece of land outside the town. It is possible to live in a camper in your backyard, but this must be done in the right environment and the right location. If you consider the movement to an area outside of town, there are some crucial factors to consider first. This includes:

  • You will need to find a clean piece of land with access to utilities.
  • You need to be aware of the safety measures, mostly if you will stay away from the R.V. for a long time.
  • Choose a location not far from shopping and business outlets.
  • You may have to give up better medical facilities. 
  • You may be more isolated, with only basic services nearby.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What states allow you to live in an R.V.?

The best states where you can live in an R.V. are Texas, South Dakota, and Florida. All these states are tax-exempt, the government firms usually accept mail forwarding addresses, and they stand as the headquarters of mail forwarding processes. The final residence choice of full-time R.V. campers usually depends on some crucial factors that affect their wallets. This includes:

  • Health insurance options and premiums
  • Vehicle license fee and annual inspection requirements
  • The ease of receiving mail on the road if you are an entrepreneur. The ease of starting a business from these states is also a significant factor.

Can I live in a travel trailer full time?

Of course, you can live in a travel trailer full time. On the other hand, depending on the chosen city’s regulations, it may be hard to do so legally. Many megacities have issued laws and regulations that adequately demand that your chosen travel trailer to live in complies with the same regulations that the house must comply with. They will also send law enforcement officers to investigate the property. Rural areas and smaller cities usually have looser rules and regulations, usually enforced only after receiving complaints from the other area residents.

Most cities focused on developing beautiful communities, attracting high-income professionals, and creating a real estate of great value will mostly put up the strictest construction and safety regulations. It will make it harder for people to live in a full-time travel trailer. Larger cities usually have more problems with people who live on city streets in their travel trailer full time. Therefore, small and medium cities have also become stricter in ensuring that they do not migrate into their towns. 

If you want to live in a travel trailer full time, you also need to meet the following conditions:
  • A smoke alarm must be available. In some regions, it must also have a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Your travel trailer must provide cooling, heating, and remain dry when it rains. 
  • If you plan to live in a travel trailer full time, then a building inspector will come over to ensure you comply with all the city regulations.
  • It must provide sufficient covering against insects and rodents.
  • A toilet and a method of treating sewage without overflow must be available too.  
  • Quite worthy of note is the fact that many travel trailers already have these amenities installed.
Moreover;
  • The chosen land must be equipped with septic tanks or have access to urban sewage. It doesn’t matter if your travel trailer already comes with a black tank. If you want to live in it permanently, you must discharge it directly into a municipal sewage or a septic tank. Of course, you can close the black water tank until it is full and then empty it into a municipal sewage or septic tank as needed. However, you can’t just evict the travel trailer from the property regularly for an R.V. dumping. If there is no municipal sewage or septic tank on your land, you will need to include it. This is because most cities do not want the spread of bacterial infections and raw sewage infiltrating the groundwater. They also want to prevent people’s feces from emitting a bad smell into the environment.
  • Proper electrical cables are needed. You can’t place an extension cable from outside the house to the travel trailer for a long time. Instead, it must pass through an appropriate underground conduit and then enter the travel trailer’s utility box. There are also codes for living in a camper, which indicates the cable and connection type when you desire to connect the toolbox to the travel trailer. If you think the building inspector will visit you, you need to prepare in advance to ensure you comply. Power problems can be fatal, cause sparks or burning, and lead to high fines.

Can I live in an R.V. on my property in Florida?

Yes, as long as the location of the R.V. meets all local partition requirements. You can contact the district department of the town to find out more as well.

Can you hook an R.V. up to a house?

You can connect the R.V. to your home’s electrical system. Do make sure that you have the required equipment installed when you buy the R.V., or you can install a 30/50 Amp connection at home. If you visit a place frequently, it is worth installing a rebroadcast for the R.V. at the destination. If you want to connect to a standard home socket, you can connect it through an outdoor, all-weather extension cord and a 15/20 Amp adapter for R.V. electrical connection. You would as well want this extension cord to be as short as possible from your home to the R.V. to prevent it from overheating.

Do follow the steps below to connect the R.V. to the electrical system of your home:

  • Before you plug the extension cord into the R.V. from your home, make sure that all electrical appliances in the device are turned off.
  • Also, turn off the circuit breaker.
  • If necessary, plug the extension cord into the electrical junction box of the R.V. through the adapter.
  • Then, reset your home circuit breaker. You have done this correctly. Otherwise, the circuit breaker will trip off before you return to the R.V.
  • If the circuit breaker trips, unplug all power plugs and go into the R.V. to ensure that virtually all equipment is turned off and no power is plugged in anywhere on the rig. Try the above steps again. 
  • If these steps still do not work, please refer to your R.V. manual, contact the manufacturer, or call the dealer to resolve the problem.

Why is it illegal to live in a camper?

Living in a camper is not entirely illegal. However, most cities have laws prohibiting camping, except for designated camping places (R.V. parks, campgrounds). These anti-camping laws were formulated to deal with homeless people sleeping on park benches, under bridges, or on the grass. Since then, they have expanded the law to include people sleeping in vans. 

Some laws prohibit any vehicles’ parking on certain streets during certain hours to prevent people from camping. These laws were made because cities and counties wanted to attract new residents with higher education and high income. They also want to attract high-tech industries, and neither can be attracted when homeless people are wandering and sleeping on the streets.

Is it wrong to leave your R.V. plugged in all the time?

No, you can keep your R.V. plugged in all the time. One of the things you ought to check regularly is the trailer’s household battery. Since the household battery will be charged continuously, you need to monitor the electrolyte level. You should do this check at least once a month to ensure they are not low or dry. If you do not monitor and recharge the batteries, you may damage them.

Is it illegal to live off the grid in America?

In America, off-grid life itself is not technically illegal. Generating power by yourself is off the grid and completely legal. Problems arise when overly strict city ordinances and zoning regulations restrict off-grid lifestyles and make sure activities on or with your property illegal.

Can you live in an R.V. all year round?

Yes, you can. The main disadvantage is that the space is limited, but with some simple modifications and streamlining, you can live in an R.V. all year round.

How do you set up a camper to live in?

Do you desire to live in a camper? If so, you need to have some basic set up knowledge before transitioning from everyday life to R.V. or camper life. You will need to conduct a lot of research to determine if transitioning to a mobile lifestyle is beneficial. For some people, moving into an R.V. or camper is the right decision, while it can be a costly mistake for others. To set up a camper to live in, you must consider the following:

  • It would help if you chose the R.V. that meets your needs.
  • You may need to establish a home base.
  • Camping life is not ideal for families with children, so you must be fully prepared in this case.
  • Just like children, keeping pets in campers can be difficult, so it requires adequate preparation too.
  • Mail forwarding service is usually required and needs to be arranged for.
  • It would help if you also got the right insurance, which is vital for all RVs you can live in.

Last Words

In conclusion, living in your camper in your backyard doesn’t have to be too complicated. Moreover, all you have to do is ask a few questions and do some regional research on parking and housing laws. In most parts of the United States, it is illegal to live in a camper or R.V. as a permanent residence unless you are under a specific registration or situation. Although these laws may not always be strictly enforced, you do not want to get into legal trouble and maybe lose your R.V. or campervan.

It’s also worthy of remembrance that the law recognizes that motor homes are primarily vehicles. Rather than houses in most states and cities. If your R.V. is considered suitable for short-term residence, it is indeed short-term rather than permanent. If you want to live full-time in your camper or R.V., the best option is to travel with it. Take a drive, camp in new places every week, and enjoy the spirit of RVing. Hope after reading this full guide on “is it legal to live in a camper in your backyard” your all doubts and questions have been solved.

Last update on 2020-10-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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