Is It Legal To Live In An RV In California

Living in a recreational vehicle (RV) for the time being may seem like a viable alternative for anyone who is in a state of transition, has led a transitory lifestyle, or needs to avoid paying rent.

If you’re planning on spending time in your RV in California, you should be aware of local and state regulations that could limit your ability to do so.

You may ask, is it illegal to live in an RV in California? The question is much easier than the answer. It’s not illegal to live in an RV in California; however, the duration and if you want to make it a permanent dwelling can make a difference.

living in an RV

Looking at it this way, you can find most government regulations says it’s illegal to live in an RV permanently. A one-bedroom apartment costs a fortune, and the cost of housing is astronomical. So, you can see why many individuals wish to make a recreational vehicle a permanent residence.

In our guide, you can learn more about RV living in California. You see, many people live in mobile homes, so it must be possible to follow the California code and California city codes while living in your vehicle.

By the end, you’ll find out, can you live in an RV in California and what you need to do for full-time RV living. (Learn How To Prepare For Full Time RV Living)

Can You Live In An RV Full-Time In California?

In short, it’s illegal to live in an RV as a permanent dwelling in the State of California unless you are making an RV park your permanent residence.

As you can see later, other states are more RV-friendly like Texas, South Dakota, and Florida, but even there, you can’t just make a mobile home your home, and state laws prohibit living in a tiny house since an RV is considered a vehicle, and not a home.

It is simple to own an RV and park it on a friend’s property or your own land, yet it can’t be permanent and legal residency under California law or other states.

However, if you own the property and have a building permit to build your home in a given time frame, you may be allowed to live in your RV. Also, you could be able to live permanently in your RV if you live in an out of local zoning regions or if the local homeowners association doesn’t take objection.

You can always try living in your RV when parked in an RV park, campground, or BLM land. Besides this, your chance for how to live in an RV is governed by your county, municipal rules, and parking laws you should research before setting up for the RV life close to any California cities.

Zoning Laws

Zoning laws determine what houses are permitted in specific sections of a county or city. Zoning regulates the size of homes, the number of rooms allowed, the number of dwellings allowed on a specific type of property, whether farm animals are allowed, and even whether you can live in an RV part-time or full-time.

Local regulations cover much more than parking and include whether there are toilet facilities, even if you are on your own plot.

Transitional Residence

If you plan to build permanent dwellings, most counties will allow you to live in an RV. If you’re building a traditional, sticks-and-bricks home, you’ll be able to camp in your RV on your own land in most states and localities.

In most cases, home builders can live in an RV for six months to a year. Even if you haven’t constructed a permanent residence on your land, your RV is considered an ADU.

Homeowners Associations

Even if you’re not breaking any state, county, or city laws, you should verify the guidelines of your homeowners association. HOAs in California have RV laws prohibiting RV parking or use as a residence even when on private property.

California HOAs are notoriously stringent, and many residents are becoming increasingly unfriendly to RVers.

rv in california

Can You Live Permanently in an RV?

Both federal and state regulations prohibit it illegal to live in an RV full-time. The reasoning for this is that, according to HUD, RVs are not customarily considered permanent residences. There are no permits that allow you to live in an RV on someone else’s property indefinitely.

You may park an RV on your land and rent it out if you own a plot of land and already have a house built. This also means that you can use this RV as an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) for a member of your family, a guest, or yourself, but you can’t sell it.

According to California law, this ADU must include permanent provisions for living, sleeping, cooking, and sanitation facilities for one or more people. (Read What States Allow You To Live In An RV On Your Property)

However, things can become a little tricky because several factors might influence whether your RV qualifies as an ADU.

  1. The size of the land lot and whether it has parking space large enough to accommodate an ADU.
  2. If there is a requirement for individual utility metering on the land.
  3. Whether or if the ADU occupies over one parking spot.
  4. You’ll be able to run utilities over your land if you own it. If this isn’t practicable, you’ll have to get formal permission from your neighbors to do electrical work on their property.
  5. To qualify your RV as an ADU, you may require legal help from a local lawyer in some circumstances.
  6. RVs are not classified as ADUs in most jurisdictions, and some states do not allow any ADUs at all. However, states and counties will usually accept RVs and ADUs on a case-by-case basis so that you may live happily in your RV.
  7. Because of the RV’s mobility, it may not be easy to qualify it as an ADU. A stable foundation, or even the removal of the wheels, can help demonstrate that it will not be utilized as a recreational vehicle.


Can You Sleep In An RV In California?

If you want to sleep in your RV while in California, there are some stipulations of what you can and can’t do. Here’s a quick breakdown of popular areas.

Here’s how a handful of California cities, towns and communities approach the problem of RV parking:

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles City Council states the following ordinance for places that have RV parking restrictions on city streets:

  • No RV to be parked on a residential street between 9:00 pm and 6:00 am
  • No RV can be parked iside 500 feet from a park, licensed school, daycare center or other kids schools.

San Francisco & Oakland

San Francisco and Oakland are also fighting homeless issues. Many Bay Area cities enforce RV parking rules, and the zoning laws make it virtually impossible for living in an RV in any particular area for more than a day.

Safe parking sites are arriving outside city limits to help and currently have a 90-day maximum stay.

San Diego

Another California city that has strict zoning laws and restricts overnight parking of RVs on residential streets.

Dry Camping

Another option for RV living in California is boondocking better known as dry camping.

Boondocking is where you park your RV on free sites on lands owned or managed by the federal or state government. While accessible, they have no water or power hookups.

If you can move from site to site and face risks of these sites filling, boondocking could be a way to live in an RV in California while saving money on RV parks.

Note, Boondocking doesn’t include the local State Park when in California. Besides this, each city or area has its own regulations for living in an RV or staying for a short period if you wish to save money.

Note, one thing often overlooked by new full-time RVers is that many RV parks implement the ten-year rule where RVs can’t be older than 10-years.

What States Allow Permanent RV living?

Full-time RV living can take some workarounds, yet some of the most RV-friendly can be found here.

  • Washington State
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Florida

In open spaces, it’s easier to find cheaper land in a particular area. If you pick any of the above, you need to be aware of the climate and environment.

Living in an RV enables you to be connected to nature, but you need a climate that suits an RV as they vary widely.

Warm winters and mild winters make these states ideal for full-time RV living. Plus, they all have access to stunning views and national parks, which may be worth the extra drive up the road.

It is worth checking where can I live in my RV (Recreational vehicles) just in case there are changes. Generally speaking, these states could be more accessible options than California, yet they lack glorious weather.

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