Does Your Home Need a Permit For RV Hookups?Elijah White
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Permits for RV living can be confusing and vary even between adjacent counties. Depending on how you plan on using your RV you may need permits for RV hookups.
Whether you plan on storing your RV, using it as a guesthouse, traveling full time, or transforming an RV into a permanent residence you may need certain approvals or permits to do so.
RV hookups can mean anything from installing a septic tank to plugging in an extension cord. Whether you need a permit to do what you have planned will depend on your location, duration of stay, and how you plan on using the RV.
While generally RVs are used to travel to established campsites on vacation, some RV goers live in their vehicle year-round. Whether you plan to travel full time and need a virtual address, plan on buying land to park on, or just want to use an RV for extra room next to your house, all those things might affect what kinds of permits you need.
As someone who has read through my county's zoning codes so I could park my RV on an empty lot, I know how difficult it can be to find accurate information that pertains to your own situation and I want to offer some of what I learned during the endeavor.
Do RV Hookups Require Permits
What RV Hookups Are Must Haves
While sewage tanks are only needed for longer stays, the freshwater supply in most RVs only last a weekend's worth of time. To park an RV for any significant amount of time a water line and adequate electricity are the two must-haves.
A place to dump your sewage is not required in some areas, it can be a laborious chore to pack your RV and drive to a nearby dump station multiple times per month. A septic tank or city sewage with an accessible port are not easy to skip if you plan on living in and parking your RV in one place long term. If you find a city that allows the use of RVs as homes they will almost certainly require proper sewage hookups on the property.
RV Permissions By County
If you do need permits to live in your RV or have a water well or a septic tank installed, you will need to consult local ordinances for guidelines. The land you occupy will have regulations based on where you live and what type of soil the ground is composed of.
If you have trouble finding this information give the main line at your local courthouse a call and they can direct you to the office that can provide building code information. Courthouses are a great first step to finding out who to contact for more specific information.
Do Cities Allow RVs Long term
Any large city has a good chance of being more unwelcoming to RVs of any kind than rural land. Living within city limits typically means following strict zoning codes on property and possibly even Homeowner Association regulations.
Rural areas and land outside of city limits are more likely to allow permanent residence in RVs and the installation of RV utility hookups.
What Can You Do In Your RV Without a Permit
Parking an RV at Home
A permit is not needed if you plan on simply parking an RV on your property. If you own a travel trailer or motorhome to take an occasional trip in you should not need any special permissions to store or maintain your RV even if you occasionally run electricity or water to it for maintenance.
Using an RV as a Guest House or Office
In most places you can occasionally occupy and use your RV as something like a small office or music studio without permits. Short stays (Typically less than two weeks but sometimes a month or two) are also allowed on most land if a primary residence is also on the property.
If you have family or friends visiting they should be able to stay in an RV on your property for up to two weeks so long as no rent money changes hands. Check local ordinances, especially in cities, for laws regarding short term occupancy.
Using an RV as a Long Term Home
Are RVs Taxable as Homes
For federal tax purposes, a recreational vehicle can be used as your main residence, allowing you to take full advantage of deductions and programs available to regular homeowners. This makes it viable to use an RV (or boat) or as your only residence so long as it has adequate quarters for sleeping, cooking, and hygiene.
You are more likely to run into issues with local housing laws than you are tax issues for living in an RV. The IRS only requires a residence to have available water and safe and clean areas to cook and sleep in to be able to be claimed as your permanent residence.
What To Do If a County Does Not Allow RVs
If the area you are in states that RVs cannot be used for permanent residence you may be able to continue living in it so long as you are applying for, planning, or building a permanent structure on the property.
Installing Water on a Property
RVs carry fresh water tanks, but they are sized more appropriately for weekend stays. If you plan on staying in your RV in one place you will either need city water connections or a well or water cistern installed on the property. Typically all three of these options will be costly and require building permits and hired professionals.
Installing Electricity on a Property
Electricity is a must have for RV living. If the property you intend to stay on is wired for electric by the county you will more than likely need to hire a qualified electrician to set up the right kind of plug needs for an RV electrical hookup. Typically this will either be a 30 or 50 amp outlet.
While possible to install yourself, electrical wiring is complicated and potentially dangerous. Installing water and sewage facilities is a more realistic goal for anyone wanting to save money by performing the work themselves. Licensed electricians will also be familiar with local building and installation codes for electric components.
Installing Sewage on a Property
Small RVs can usually hold one week's worth of wastewater while large rigs may last a full month. Either way, it is difficult and unrealistic to expect to drive to a dump station every time your tanks need to be emptied if you otherwise plan on staying stationary in the same spot. Many locations may also require either city or septic sewage on the property.
Getting an Address For Your RV
Property Lot Addresses
If you plan on parking an RV on purchased land you may be able to use the RV as a temporary residence as long as you are building another permanent residence. Obtaining an address in this situation is as simple as getting an address for the plot of land then finding out what specifications you must follow to stay in an RV on the property.
Virtual Mail Addresses
Traveling full time in an RV can make it difficult to obtain mail and use an address on your ID or other personal paperwork. Nowadays it is possible to set up a virtual address online through multiple companies.
These services have physical mailing centers your mail is sent to and scanned at before being emailed to you or accessed from an app. Most services also offer forwarding to a nearby post office so you can pick up packages and important paperwork. Types of addresses offered by these services may vary. Some are usable on drivers licenses and official documents while others may not be accepted.