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Is Parking an RV on Residential Property Legal?

If you’re an RV owner, chances are you’re somewhat familiar with RV residential parking rules.

On April 12th 2023, Reddit user (u/cheesefan2020) ran into an issue and asked:

Anybody run into issues with code violations about parking a driveable rv in their driveway ? It doesn’t block the sidewalks or anything. Code enforcement came to the house and told me a neighbor complained, yet when I asked which part of the code did I violate they were not able to quote it. When I looked at the county codes I didn’t see anything specifically. Waiting to hear back from code department, wanted to see what else people experienced

-Reddit User u/cheesefan2020

Let’s get started!

It’s easy to assume that if you own an RV, parking your RV on your property is as simple as parking your car. But it’s not. In fact, it’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges.

Whether or not RV residential parking is allowed on any given property depends on the local laws. In the eyes of the government, a recreational vehicle is neither a permanent home nor a standard automobile. Rules designated by cities, HUD, HOAs, and zoning laws will determine where you can legally park your RV.

Generally speaking, RV residential parking is legal as long as you have a permit. Yes, really.

If you’ve seen RVs parked in driveways and backyards with no issues, it might be luck that kept them there. Perhaps no one’s bothered to report them. But do you want to take the risk?

It’s pretty easy to obtain a permit. And honestly, it makes sense. Municipalities just want you to park where you can access running water and sewage. They’ll want to know how you run your electricity to your rig, so you don’t start a fire. 

In some states, RVs can function as guest housing because sleeping arrangements are seen as temporary. Land zoned for homesteading and RV co-op parks are examples of long-term options. You might even find an easygoing neighborhood with RV allowances. But you have to do your research.

And we’re here to help!

Happy couple standing together in RV doorway
Check the rules of your neighborhood before you park your RV on residential property.

Rules For Parking an RV on Residential Property

The first rule of thumb is that RV living is considered camping and not parking. RVs must park two to three feet away from structures and be secured. You also need legal license plates. Although detailed rules vary depending on the class of RV, we can go over some general basics.

Zoning Laws

The first step in researching local zoning laws for RV residential parking is prep. Write down all of your questions. For example, “How long can I park my RV at my cousin Vinnie’s house? What kind of permit do I need to park my RV on my property?”

Next, contact the county or city zoning department where you want to park your RV. Their answers may depend on the size and kind of RV.

Local officials may even give you an exception for specific rules just for showing good faith and taking the time to call.

Homeowners Associations (HOA)

About half of the homes in the United States are represented by homeowners associations. A homeowners association, or HOA, is an organization that manages a community of homes. 

Each HOA can restrict RVs or completely ban them. Restrictions are usually put in place to keep street parking available and the area looking nice. That said, most HOAs allow street or driveway parking for 24 to 48 hours. And some may have few restrictions beyond the local laws.

Be sure to check with your HOA or your friend’s HOA regarding their RV rules to avoid fines. If you’re part of an HOA, you can work towards amending rules to better serve the growing RV community.

Dumping RV Tanks

The good news is you can dump RV tanks at whichever home you’re parked in, most of the time. Once again, check for local restrictions and regulations.

The tricky part is deciding how to dump long before you reach your destination. Do you have access to a municipal cleanout pipe? Or will you be using a septic tank? Ideally, you’ll dump using either of these with a hose, much like at an RV park.

If you have to use a toilet, do your research. You never, ever want to dump on the street. Avoid city fines and keep it clean!

Pro Tip: Make dumping your RV tank at home easier with these tips.

Residential neighborhood
Due to zoning laws and HOA rules, you may not be able to park your RV overnight in a residential area.

Here’s How Other Redditors Responded

The Answers:

u/MsTerious1 says: “I am not an RVer yet but have dealt with this question for real estate clients sometimes.

If the city/county ordinances are violated, then code enforcement should be sending out a letter before you have to take action, and the letter should state exactly what ordinance is violated. The most common ones I’ve heard about cities trying to use are: inoperable vehicle rules, and subdivision restrictions that are on original plat maps that restrict how properties can be used.

There can also be homeowner association rules/bylaws, but those wouldn’t be enforced by the zoning / code department.

If it was me hearing from a code enforcement officer that couldn’t quote code, I would not do anything at all without them first sending me an official notice on department letterhead. As it is, you might be hearing from a friend of the complainer (or the actual complainer, for that matter) who has no official grounds to order your RV to be removed.”

u/DSC9000 adds: “In my township, parking for all non-commercial trailers and motorized RVs

  • Must be on a concrete or asphalt pad, not grass or gravel
  • The leading edge of the trailer tongue or front of vehicle must be behind the front edge of the home

Basically, you can park it alongside or behind your home as long as it’s on it’s own pad. There is also allowance for temporary parking in a driveway or street for 24 hours.

I live on a private drive under the purview of an association, so bylaws specific to the neighborhood differ from code. In my neighborhood:

  • No permanent parking of trailers or motorized RVs on property
  • Driveway or street parking is allowed for 72 hours on an infrequent basis (the bylaws use once a month as an example of infrequent)”

Can I Park My RV in a Residential Driveway?

It depends. A residential driveway is a part of residential property. So the answer depends on the rules designated by your local government and your HOA. 

If you live in a city that bans RV residential driveway parking entirely, it may be due to unsightliness. Think about the effect your RV may have on your neighbors. You might want to check in with your neighbors to keep good neighborly etiquette even if you’re legally allowed to park an RV where others can see it.

Check your city government’s website for hours allowed and length of stay. If you have an HOA, it might be wise to talk to your government representatives to ensure the association’s rules are legit.

Can I Moochdock in My RV on Residential Property?

What do you get when you combine free RV parking and mooching off someone you know? Moochdocking! Also known as driveway surfing, moochdocking is urban slang for parking your RV for free on your pal’s driveway or land.

The plus side to moochdocking is that it’s free! It provides a break between points A and B. It’s also great to see your friends and family without cramping their style too much. 

That said, you don’t want to stay too long. Be considerate before you roll up by having a good conversation with your hosts about their boundaries. How long can you park at their place? Should you dump your garbage offsite? Is it okay to mooch the WiFi? And what’s the signal strength in that area? 

And speaking of boundaries, you might want to ask your friends and family to measure their driveway before you roll up. Nothing says awkward like rolling up to relax when you can’t fit in the driveway. 

Pro Tip: Make sure to never commit any of these 7 Deadly Sins of Moochdocking.

Camp for free by moochdocking in your friends or family members driveway.

If you follow the rules, the short answer is yes. The long answer is you need to do your research before parking on any residential streets. You’ll most likely need a parking permit from the local chief of police. 

Keep the following three variables in mind. First, what time of day will you be parking? Second, how long do you intend to park? And third, who’s sleeping in the RV?

Since most everyone reading this will want to sleep in their RVs, it’s essential to look into city and neighborhood rules before making assumptions. Many neighborhoods allow you to park RVs but not sleep in them!

Play By the Rules When Parking on Residential Property

As you can see, the legality of RV residential parking varies from state to state and town to town. It can even change from block to block! Although you’ll always find an example of RVers flying under the radar, we think it’s best to play by the rules. 

And it’s pretty easy to do so! In fact, it might be kind of fun for some full-time RVers to map out their discoveries. If you don’t go to one location you researched today, the knowledge may come in handy tomorrow!

Can I Let Strangers Camp in my Driveway?

Do you love being social? Are you an extrovert who wants to connect with fellow campers? Or, do you simply want to offer travelers a break from high RV park prices.

Take a look into Boondockers Welcome.

Boondockers Welcome is a platform that connects RVers with hosts who offer free overnight parking on their private property. The idea behind Boondockers Welcome is to provide a safe and affordable alternative to traditional RV parks or campgrounds.

The hosts on the platform can be homeowners, farmers, or anyone with enough space to accommodate an RV. In exchange for the free parking spot, RVers are expected to be respectful of their hosts’ property and follow a set of guidelines.

Boondockers Welcome is a community-driven platform that aims to foster connections between travelers and hosts while promoting responsible and sustainable RVing.

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