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City Impounds Woman’s RV, Now She Lives in a Car

What do you do when you live in an RV, and the city hauls it to the impound? As unfortunate as this scenario sounds, it’s the reality for some Americans.

With chaos erupting in the housing market, affordable housing is nearly impossible to find. For many, living out of a camper is a necessity instead of a choice.

Today, we’re sharing what happens when you camp in a city that doesn’t embrace the RV life trend. Buckle up because it’s a bumpy ride.

Let’s get into it!

A woman wrapped in a blanket holding a mug. A car is in the background. Many people end up living in their cars because they've lost their home, sometimes even an RV gets impounded
You may be living out of your car if your RV ends up in the impound

Woman Lives in a Car After Her RV Is Impounded

Carol, a 70-year-old YouTuber, travels in her van and is passionate about advocating for homeless individuals. She recently shared an interview she did with a nomad by the name of Jaymie. The video gives a behind-the-scenes look at the reality of homelessness in the United States.

In this situation, her home was an aging motorhome she inherited when a friend died. The property where she was living recently sold. The new owners forced her to pack her things and leave. With nowhere to go, she ventured into San Diego city limits and started acquiring tickets. She claims to have received 17 citations for illegally parking an oversized vehicle.

While she could pay for some of the fines, she didn’t have the funds for all of them. Once the unpaid violations were overdue, the city hauled her rig away. 

Thankfully, she had a second car that she could move into. However, it’s nowhere near enough room for her and her dog to call home. Sadly, Jaymie discovered just one of the many justifications cities use to seize RVs.

Why Do Cities Impound RVs?

Some cities are very hospitable to big rigs and campers. On the other hand, many urban areas have a laundry list of reasons they might impound an RV. Officers can haul your rig away if you’re in an accident and sent to the hospital. They may do the same if your rig is disabled and causing a hazard.

Having invalid or misused license plates or driver’s licenses is the same. These may seem like minor infractions, but they can quickly become major problems.

If you’re taken into police custody, don’t expect to find your camper where you left it once you’re released. There’s a good chance it’ll be sitting behind locked gates.

Many owners realize the trouble they’re getting into when they receive citations for illegal parking. But some fail to consider that law enforcement could tow away their home on wheels. 

Unfortunately, laws vary from one location to the next. Additionally, how law enforcement resolves the situation will depend on the circumstances. They typically don’t want to haul vehicles away or put owners in a tough spot. However, sometimes they have no other choice.

Life on the road: Where Do Women Shower When Car Camping?

How Do You Get Your RV Out of an Impound Lot?

If your RV has taken a trip to the impound lot, recovering can be challenging. The first thing you need to do is locate it. Contact law enforcement or the city to find out where they took it. They may require you to provide certain information, such as the license plate or vehicle identification number (VIN).

You’ll then need to contact the establishment that’s holding your property. Before heading there, confirm they have your rig and inquire about the process. They may need specific documents or proof of ownership to turn it over to you. If you show up without these, you’ll likely walk away empty-handed.

The final step, paying the fees, is often the hardest. Some lots charge in 12-hour increments, and others by the day. Either way, these can add up quickly. Minimize the damage by rescuing your RV as soon as possible.

As you can imagine, this isn’t an easy process, especially if you live in your camper. You may not have access to resources or copies of the required documents. The longer it takes for you to acquire them, the more you’re paying in fines. Eventually, you may have no choice but to abandon your RV.

What Happens to RVs That Are Abandoned at Impound Lots?

In most situations, a tow company or storage facility will hold a vehicle for 30 days. After this period, they place a lien on the property and send it to auction. Their goal is for the sale to cover their lost expenses. They can pursue legal action if the automobile sells for less than what you owe them.

Some owners end up signing over the title to avoid the legal mess. Cutting a deal with the establishment may be easier than going through the courts. However, while this sometimes satisfies the towing or storage fees, citations may remain active.

Of course, your RV isn’t responsible for whatever caused it to be impounded. You, as the driver, are accountable for any tickets or fines. You’ll still be on the hook for these fees and expected to pay them. Failure to do so will likely result in further legal troubles. This snowball effect can continue and cause a severe problem for the owner.

Close up of chain-link fence with what could be an impound lot with an RV in the background
It could be a challenge to get your RV out of an impound lot

What Are Safe Parking Programs?

As mentioned earlier, some cities are more gracious than others when it comes to big rigs. For example, the “Colorado Safe Parking Initiative” operates throughout Denver. These spots are safe, legal places for individuals to stay while they get back on their feet. Users can access restroom facilities and various support services to point them in the right direction.

In addition, Los Angeles offers vehicle dwellers a safe and legal place to stay. These are in neighborhoods like South Central, Compton, and South Los Angeles. These free spaces provide overnight security and restrooms. Those interested must submit an application and the necessary paperwork.

While these programs may not address every need, they’re a step in the right direction. It’s great to see cities stepping up and taking action against this injustice. After all, it’s a long, hard fight once an individual starts living in their car.

Read more about How To Camp Out of Your Car, Legally.

Check Local Laws So You’re Not Next

Just because you own or live in your automobile doesn’t mean you can park it anywhere. If you’re not careful, your RV could end up in an impound lot. Fees add up quickly, and you could be over your head with legal troubles. 

Unfortunately, some communities have little empathy for those down on their luck. If you’re in this situation, abide by your jurisdiction’s parking laws to avoid a major hassle.

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