Can I live in a camper on my property? In most cases, the answer is undoubtedly yes, only as temporary accommodation if your home is being renovated, repainted, fumigated, or something like that. This is because while your camper may be a nice getaway, it’s not intended to be a permanent dwelling.

Local, state, and federal laws and regulations govern whether you can live in your RV or camper in your backyard full-time. Therefore to stay safe and avoid breaking the law, you must make an informed decision based on knowing precisely what the rules in the area where you live say. 

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll go through the ins and outs of parking your RV or camper on your land and ensuring that you are well-informed on the legality of your parked vehicle. I’ll even answer some frequently asked questions about this topic so that I leave no stone unturned. 

Let’s begin with what the law says about living in a camper full-time in your backyard.

What The Law Says About Camping in Your Backyard

Now, to answer the question that’s on your mind: “Can someone live in a camper on your property?”

Living in a camper in your backyard is legal if certain conditions are met, such as local zoning restrictions, homeowner’s association bylaws, and municipal legislation. Living in a camper on residential land may be permissible in some areas under certain conditions. Some camping sites may require you to obtain authorization or meet specific requirements.

Camping may, however, be prohibited or restricted in other areas. Since a trailer may not fulfill all the requirements of a home dwelling, living permanently in a camper in your backyard is almost always illegal. Speak with local officials or seek legal advice to learn the specific regulations surrounding camper living in your garden.

The Typical Options In RV Living

According to Orient Criminal Law, a law firm based in Phoenix, Arizona, in residential areas, both urban and rural, living permanently in an RV is usually prohibited. However, here are some steps you can take to live in your RV legally:

  • Registering a “recreational vehicle” and parking it in your garage
  • Get your RV registered as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU).

According to the Federal Reserve government report, RVs do not qualify as permanent dwellings. With that view of RVs and campers, you should feel safe sleeping in your camper in your backyard as long as you don’t intend to do so permanently. 

Check out the video below from SimplyRVing Homestead Reflection about choosing an RV option for full-time living in Florida:

RV As Permanent Home

The USLegal website defines an RV as a “Motor Home, [a] self-propelled vehicle that provides both transport and sleeping accommodation.” The term mainly describes vans fitted out, often with a coach-built body for use as accommodation.

In the United States, the term “recreational vehicle” (RV) is more common for these vehicles. They are also called campervans. The authorities usually do not see an RV as a house or permanent living site since it’s technically a motor vehicle. Also, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, an RV can is for travel, recreational, and camping purposes. 

So, in most cases, the cops will at least give you a notice or warning about living in your RV or camper in your backyard permanently. Usually, this will come due to neighbor complaints.

Sleeping for a night or two might be okay, but living there for weeks and months will eventually lead to a discussion with the authorities.

Domicile Status

A domicile status means you can live in your RV in your backyard full-time. It differs from a residency status since that allows you to have residences in various places, while domicile status only permits you to be an RV resident in the state you applied for. 

In some states, if you have domicile status in your RV, it can be subject to an income tax. I won’t be covering RV tax specifics in this article.

Getting A Building Permit

A building permit’s another way around strict RV parking and living laws. In some cities, a building permit will allow you to live in your RV for a short time.

The permit cost is around $1,000 in most locations, but the price will vary from state to state. However, it will give you full permission to live in your RV. 

Updated HUD Regulations

The HUD’s “FR–5877–P–01 Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations; Revision of Exemption for Recreational Vehicles” features updated regulations. In those regulations, the HUD emphasized that living full-time in an RV is illegal. 

Here is an excerpt from the revision:

This proposed rule is based on a recommendation adopted by the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC), which would define a recreational vehicle as one built on a vehicular structure, not certified as a manufactured home, designed only for recreational use, and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy, and built and certified by either the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1192-15 or American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A119.5-09 consensus standards for recreational vehicles.

Currently, RV and camper laws are not enforced strictly in many areas. However, authorities in different places may start being strict and enforcing the by-laws related to using RVs as permanent homes over time. As the HUD changes regulations, cities may focus more on RV and camper parking situations.

Zoning Laws

Zoning laws in different areas dictate how real property can and cannot be used. Specific zoning laws may affect whether or not you will be able to park your RV in a particular neighborhood. This can be for many reasons, which I will now clarify in great detail.

Rving Portrait Content

First, your RV might affect the desired look of the neighborhood. Whether it’s your regular suburban neighborhood or a swanky urban one, developers and homeowners care about how their surroundings look. If your backyard is not visible from other houses, you might have higher chances of parking and sleeping without attracting too much attention.

Second, if others see you getting away with living in your RV, then they might think it’s OK to do it too. Once many folks in your neighborhood begin residing in campers and RVs, it will become more noticeable, and the city is more likely to intervene. 

According to Nolan Gray, writing for the American magazine, The Atlantic, zoning laws in mid-America are more forgiving regarding using RVs than laws in West Coast cities like San Diego or San Francisco.

The same author says that cities that are more commerce-heavy than others will enforce their laws more strictly due to the number of people living and working in them. 

RV Parking Laws

The laws and regulations of sleeping in your RV in your backyard vary from place to place.

Many RV owners in California take advantage of the ADU loophole. Using this loophole, you can work around specific laws by registering your RV as an accessory dwelling unit. 

The state defines it as: “An attached or a detached residential dwelling unit that provides complete independent living facilities for one or more persons.” The definition also says, “It shall include permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation on the same parcel as the single-family dwelling is situated.”

You can treat an ADU as an extension of your main property as long as it’s placed within it. Most of the time, you can use an ADU to host visitors or rent it out to tenants.

Again, the definition of an RV as a vehicle or an ADU shifts from time to time and from place to place. However, an RV’s qualification to be an ADU is usually based on the following criteria:

  • Is the main property big enough for your house and the RV?
  • Is the RV less than 1,200 feet?
  • Does the RV need its utility metering?
  • Is the RV taking up more than a single parking slot?

State Laws for RV/Camper Living 

I did some research on a few states, and here is the information I found: 

  • Vermont and California: RV rules differ in each county. Both states permit local governments to issue RV’s an ADU permit based on some conditions. At the same time, in San Diego, RV laws are more strict. They explicitly categorize an RV as a vehicle and state that you shall not use it as an ADU, just like in New York City. 
  • Minnesota: In Minneapolis, an RV is an ADU if it follows this code: “The primary exterior materials of the detached accessory structure shall be durable, including but not limited to masonry, brick, stone, wood, cement-based siding, or glass.”
  • Oregon and Washington: Any structure with wheels on it does not qualify to be an ADU. Due to zoning, housing, and safety laws, RV laws are enforced more strictly in cities. As you move out of cities and into more rural communities, the enforcement of rules becomes more relaxed. 
  • Virginia: In Bedford County, an RV can be considered an “accessory apartment” based on conditions like being detached from the main property and should be less than 50% in floor area when compared to the main property. 
  • South Dakota: Florida and Texas are examples of states more welcoming of RVs. There are still zoning laws in some areas in each state that you must follow, but the RV experience in those states is generally easier.
  • Arizona: In Phoenix, you can use an  RV as a guesthouse. Some conditions include having a single guest house on the land, being not bigger than 50% of the main property, and not being advertised as a property for rent anywhere.

I found an excellent volunteer website with more comprehensive information about regulations in specific cities across America. 

Remember, while a state may make the laws for all its counties, the actual enforcement of these laws may differ significantly in how lax or vigorously the authorities enforce them.

In certain areas, the law may be strict on paper, but in some cases, enforcement of RV laws is relatively infrequent.

Rural RV Parking

Rural RV Parking

Authorities in rural areas are more likely to be relaxed with their enforcement, especially regarding the issue of living in your RV.

This is mainly because living in your RV, you are less likely to cause a disruption to traffic, limit parking availability, etc.

However, this doesn’t mean you should push your luck. It’s better, if you are new to an area, to ask around where all the RVs are parked. 

Urban RV Parking

Zoning laws and law enforcement are stricter in cities, especially in commerce-heavy cities. To be safe, always assume that the default law is that you are not allowed to live permanently in your RV unless told otherwise.

Living In An Rv Full Time 

Living in an RV may be a thrilling and rewarding experience. Whether planning a short-term visit or a more extended excursion, taking the required precautions to guarantee a safe and enjoyable experience is essential. Here are some important actions to take:

  • Create a timeline: Before you begin the journey, make a timeline stating your target locations and length of stay. This will assist you in avoiding unexpected camping scenarios and ensuring you have a solid plan in place.
  • Make a roadmap: While the uncertainty of unknown places might be enticing, especially for seasoned travelers, it’s best to plan ahead of time, especially if you’re new to RV life. A physical map of your trip might be a useful tool during your journey.
  • Prepare your supplies: To avoid unexpected stops due to supply shortages, ensure you’re well-stocked. Stock up on necessities like car documents, personal identification, extra cash, a medical kit, a printed map of the region, and dependable light sources.
  • Secure your home: While preparing your RV is crucial, remember to secure your home before you leave. Avoid making an open announcement of your departure since this may draw unwelcome attention from potential burglars.
  • Conduct research and make calls: Once you’ve established your timeframe and plan, research RV rules and regulations in the states and localities you’ll visit. Learn about the local enforcement rules to guarantee compliance and a pleasant visit.


Living in an RV on your property may be an exciting and fulfilling experience. You can ensure a safe and pleasurable experience by following the procedures and instructions I have outlined above. Before embarking on your adventure, make a timetable, plan a route, stock up on critical supplies, protect your property, and perform extensive study. 

While an RV may serve as your home on wheels, allowing you to travel to new locations while still enjoying the comforts of home, be sure to check local rules. Once you’ve confirmed the legalities, it’s time to pack your belongings and go on the thrilling experience of living in an RV full-time on your own land. The open road is waiting for you!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can someone live in a camper on your property?

A: Yes. In most cases, someone can live in a camper on your property as long as they are not permanent. At the same time, it isn’t legal in every state in the US, and some states are stricter than others. For this reason, it’s important to always check with your local zonal laws.

Q: Can I rent out my RV on my property?

A: Yes. You can rent the RV on your property without breaking the rules in most US states. RVs can often be considered private home domiciles and, if on private land, is unlikely to cause any problems with the authorities. However, it is still important to realise that the type of rental we are talking about here is short-term rental.  

Q: Is it possible to be living in an RV full-time on your land?

A: In certain regions only, you can live in an RV full-time, even if you own the land. To ensure that you aren’t breaking any local laws, it’s crucial to check the laws that prevail over the area that you live in.

Q: Can you live in an RV on your land?

A: Yes. You can live in an RV on your land in most states in the US without attracting any unwanted attention from the local authorities.

Q: Can I live in a camper on my property?

A: Whether or not you can live in a camper on your property ultimately depends on local laws and regulations that prevail over your county, town, city, and state.

Q: How much does it cost to rent a mobile home?

A: The cost of renting a mobile home depends on many variables like location and size. You should be able to find one in a reasonable market at a rate between $500-$2000.