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Posted on May 16, 2020 in Arizona Law

Is it Legal to Live in Your Camper in Your Backyard?

RVs are gaining in popularity as more people seek less expensive housing options and desire to travel more while sticking to a budget. However, can a property owner live full time or allow someone else to live full time in an RV parked in their backyard? The answer is not simple.

Zoning Ordinances and Laws for RVs

RVs are not considered permanent residences. Therefore, there are strict zoning ordinances and local laws that dictate whether a person can live full time in an RV. Local zoning ordinances and laws also dictate where RVs may be parked.

In urban areas, property owners may not be permitted to park RVs on their lots. Restrictions adopted in neighborhoods may restrict homeowners from parking or keeping RVs on their lots. Even in rural areas, the laws may prohibit the use of RVs for permanent residences.

For example, Phoenix has very few exceptions to its zoning ordinance that requires occupied recreational vehicles to be located in a recreation vehicle park. Exemptions include a property owner living in an RV during the construction of a permanent home on the premises. However, the owner must have a permit, and the period cannot exceed one year.

Because local and state laws and ordinances vary greatly, an RV owner and the property owner must carefully research the laws applicable to their property to determine if they are breaking the law by living in an RV in their backyard. Depending on the jurisdiction, a person could face a misdemeanor criminal charge for living in an RV in their backyard.

Depending on the area, local law enforcement agencies may strictly enforce RV restrictions and regulations. In rural areas, law enforcement agencies may not enforce the laws as strictly as urban law enforcement agencies because there are fewer people to complain about the use of RVs as permanent residences.

However, a property owner should never assume it is okay to live in an RV. It is best to check with the city and county government agencies to learn about the rules for RV use on private property. By taking the time to learn about the rules, an owner can save themselves from the costs and time of dealing with a citation.

Where Can You Live in an RV Legally?

There are several places where RV owners can live legally in their recreational vehicles full time. RV parks have popped up in several areas throughout Arizona. These parks offer temporary and full-time lots for rent.

In many cases, RV parks offer rates that include utilities and other amenities. Maricopa County has several of these RV parks available. Some are developed (with full hookups) and others are semi-developed (no hookups).

National parks and state campsites are other alternatives for RV owners who like to travel. These parks are open during certain times each year and offer rental sites for camping in an RV. They are not intended for permanent residences, however.

Some city and county ordinances permit the temporary use of an RV by a guest of the homeowner. Therefore, a property owner may allow a friend or family member visiting them to stay in an RV in the backyard. In most cases, local ordinances limit the stay to a few days or weeks.

Some property owners rent their yard or driveway to RV owners for a night or two. The RV owner pays the homeowner a rental fee to park the RV and stay in the RV for a set number of nights. Again, local ordinances may restrict this use of an RV.

Bottom Line, Research State and Local Laws

There may not be a standard federal law prohibiting living in an RV in your backyard. However, your city, county, or state governments may have enacted laws that prevent you from living in an RV in your yard. Many people disagree with these laws because they believe they should have the freedom to use their land as they desire.

Zoning ordinance and restrictions are designed to protect all property owners. Whether you agree or disagree with the laws, if you break those laws, you face penalties.

The penalties for violating zoning ordinances or laws generally involve fines. However, the fines can become quite expensive for repeated violations. You could also face civil penalties if your RV causes an injury.

If you receive a warning or a violation, you might want to consult an attorney about your legal rights. An attorney understands the laws governing the situation and can explain those laws and your options for fighting those laws. A lawyer also explains the penalties for repeated violations.