When times are tough the camper offers a potential safety net for families no longer able to afford living in a residential home.

Being forced to live on the street is a tragedy that befalls many Americans, and if they were able to live in an RV it would have a hugely beneficial impact in their outcomes. The reality is that for various reasons, most communities make this an illegal act.

It is illegal to live fulltime in an RV or  camper on a property which is not an RV campsite. It is legal to live in a camper for a temporary period, possibly while the main house is being worked on and it is also legal to use the RV or camper as a temporary guest house for friends and family.

It is generally considered that the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development definition of an RV should be changed and that long term accommodation in a camper should be permitted, particularly with the strain American consumers are experiencing at the moment.

While an abandoned camper often deteriorates to the point where it becomes an eyesore, this is rarely the case when an RV is being use as permanent accommodation by a family who are down on their luck.



Why Is It Illegal To Live In A Camper?

There’s no federal law prohibiting anyone parking an RV on their own property however there may be local regulations or Homeowners Association rules which prevent it. These should be checked on first.

Should you need to live in your RV or camper for a short duration such as when there are builders making alterations to your family home, or the fumigators are cleaning it out, it is not illegal.

If you use the Camper as a guest room for friends and families, it is quite acceptable as long as the residents only stay in the RV or camper for a few weeks. The problem comes about when the RV or camper is used to live in permanently.

However, in all states in North America, it is illegal to live fulltime in a camper because the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development considers an RV to be temporary accommodation and not a permanent dwelling structure. This includes.

  1. Motor Homes.
  2. Pull Behind Camper vans
  3. Fifth Wheelers
  4. Tiny Homes
  5. Pop Up Campers and tents.

The typical regulations read.

“designed only for recreational use, and not as a primary residence or permanent dwelling.” and “…designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy.”

This regulation does not take into consideration the fact modern RVs are durable enough to act as a  full time home, and they provide all of the comforts and facilities which normal homes offer.

This attitude is completely counterintuitive, as while they are not considered permanent accommodation the reality is that they are completely capable of acting as such.

For a family who may have purchased an empty lot of land, and while they cannot afford  (for a time)  to build a “permanent” structure an RV camper will provide a suitable and secure home until such time as they can afford “brick and mortar” structure.

Why Do People Try To Live In A Camper?

There is an ever increasing number of people who are being forced through no fault of their own –due to current economic climate – out of their homes and onto the streets.

Both the federal, state and county regulators need to amend the regulations to help millions of Americans who are struggling financially.

  1. The economy is struggling.
  2. Gas prices are at record highs.
  3. 40% of American households earning less than $40,000 annually lost a job in March (Washington Post).
  4. 30% of Americans have fallen behind paying their bills (KFF Health tracking).
  5. 25% of Americans report that they, or a family member, skipped meals or relied on charity.
  6. While the CARES act imposed a moratorium on evictions, when this is lifted a “potential tidal wave” of homelessness may occur.
  7. 48% of American adults say they have postponed or skipped medical care due to coronavirus.
  8. At 9%, food inflation the March food inflation figures is the largest annual increase since 1981.
  9. The cost of agricultural chemicals in North America, including fertilizers and pesticides, has increased by almost 50% in the previous 12 months. These chemicals account for 10%-20% of American farmers costs.
  10. Transport costs (which includes food delivery) increased by almost 25% in the previous twelve months.

With the difficulties the American consumer faces, owning an RV and living in it fulltime is a much safer, secure, and healthier option than becoming homeless on the streets.

Should It Be Legal To Live In A Camper?

If the regulations are changed to allow for living in RVs or campers, it will be a life changing act for millions of Americans.

The law could be changed with the following provisions.

  1. The RV must be connected to the utility water supply.
  2. The RV must be connected to the electrical supply.
  3. The RV must be connected to the city’s sewerage system.

If the municipalities are enforcing the regulations because they are losing out on revenue, a provision could made for payment of these taxes’ dependant on the value of the property plus RV/Camper.

When Is It Legal To Live In A Camper?

Fortunately, there are two ways to live in an RV or camper fulltime which are completely legal, and which will give you full protection under the law.

Living In An RV Park In Your Camper

While this is more expensive then living on a spare piece of land, or on a friend or families plot, it is completely legal to rent a camping spot on a fulltime basis. The benefits of this are.

  1. You can hook up to the park’s electricity.
  2. You can hook up the parks full time water supply and other utilities you need while making .
  3. You can connect the sewerage outlets into the RV parks system.
  4. You are complying with the law.

The downside is that it is more expensive, and you have to live within the strict regulations imposed by the RV park.

Becoming Full Time Travelers in Your Camper

Once again, the viability of this option will be dictated by your family’s circumstances.

However, if you are able, becoming full time travelers in an RV or Camper is an incredible opportunity and gives you the chance to see the magnificent country which is North America.

From the warm white sandy beaches in Florida, through the unspoilt parks in Utah, across the Grand Canyon and through to the icy North and the magnificent mountain ranges in Alaska, the United States has more diversity than any other country.


Anthony Day

Anthony Day

Hi, my name is Anthony, and RVs are what I'm passionate about. I bought my first RV when I was 21, and I've been hooked ever since. I'll guide you on how they work, how they can be used in different environments, and how they fit into our everyday lives.

Read More About Anthony Day