Congratulations on acquiring an RV! Now you’ve got to solve the problem of keeping it somewhere. And depending on the type of RV you have and where you live, that could be a problem. Many cities place restrictions on the kinds of vehicles you can park even in your own driveway or yard, much less on the street. If you don’t want your rig towed, and you want to avoid pesky citations, fines and court dates, you need to know the law.
Know Your RV
The first step is to know how your RV is categorized for the purposes of zoning law compliance. First, you should know your RV’s length, height and width, since many cities use vehicle dimensions to define what RVs are off limits when it comes to parking within city or county boundaries.
You should also know your RV’s classification.
Class A Motorhomes
These are the biggest and grandest of the RVs on the road. They can be built on commercial truck platforms, or they can be made from commercial bus frames. Examples include the Thor Challenger and the Fleetwood Discovery.
Class B Motorhomes
Class C Motorhomes
These are your two-parters: A living area and an attached, but separated cab section for the driver and passenger. Generally they’ll have a “cab-over” protruding over the cab, which holds a bed, storage area, or entertainment center. Sometimes these are called ‘mini-motorhomes. Examples include the Born Free Freedom and the Nexus Phantom.
These classes, of course, are in addition to the many types of trailer and ‘fifth wheeler’ setups in the RV world.
RVers vs. Neighbors
RVs and similar over-sized vehicles are occasionally the subject of contention between RV owners and their non-RV-owning neighbors. RVers, of course, want a convenient and secure place to store their RVs where they can keep an eye on them. Their neighbors are concerned about large vehicles running over their kids and grandkids on their bicycles, as well as unsightly RVs spoiling their carefully sculpted and landscaped areas and causing property values to decline.
As a result, many communities have laws restricting RV size and where you can park them. You can usually find them in your own municipal code by searching the code for terms like “recreational vehicles,” over-sized vehicles and “motorhomes.” Generally, the more urban or suburban your community, the more likely that there will be some kind of restriction on how and where you can keep your RV parked. You may have to park your RV at the rear of your property, for example, or you may only be able to park it a certain number of days out of the week or month, and not longer than a certain amount of hours (typically 24 to 48).
Many communities that allow RV parking or storage on residential property require that the vehicle be registered to the property owner or lessee. There may be provisions for guests, with a time limit, such as 10 to 14 days.
Zoning laws may make some allowances for a one or two day ‘loading or unloading’ period. Salinas, CA, is one example. Here’s their RV related zoning information.
Typically, these zoning laws will require you to keep your RV in a clean and presentable condition. Unattractive or junk-looking RVs attract negative attention from regulators and city council members, and make things more difficult for other RV owners.
If there is a code in place, enforcement can be uneven. Some communities may have police and other city or county employees actively enforcing RV restrictions. If they see your RV where it isn’t supposed to be, they’ll issue a citation. Other communities employ a ‘passive’ approach: They won’t bother you unless somebody complains. (Tip: If you’re in such a community, invite all your neighbors over for a barbecue hosted out of your RV. They’ll be less likely to rat you out if they know you, they know how much you love your RV and they enjoy it, too!)
If your area is prone to windstorms or hurricane damage, restrictions on RV parking have a public safety component: RVs tend to be made of lightweight and relatively flimsy material: Plywood, fiberglass, sheets of aluminum and of course big panes of glass. It would be extremely dangerous to be anywhere downwind of an RV that gets torn up by a windstorm. As a result, the city of Miami, for example, requires that the vehicle or equipment shall be secured so that it will not be a hazard or menace during high winds or hurricane.
If you live in an area with a homeowners association, condominium association or community management association, they could also be an obstacle to storing your RV on your own property – even in your own driveway. Indeed, homeowners associations have been known to take action against people with pickup trucks, much less RVs!
Does an HOA have the authority to dictate what you can and can’t park in your own driveway? Yes, they generally do. However, they can’t just invent rules to enforce willy-nilly. If the HOA Board or their property manager representative objects to your RV and they want to take action against you, they have to do so in accordance with a policy that has been duly enacted by a vote of the Board of Directors, and written in the community association’s governing documents, bylaws or (more likely) the statement of covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs).
Restrictions on RV parking are common in managed communities. And the association restrictions can have teeth: If you are in violation of the CC&Rs you agreed to, the community association can actually file suit against you, and if they prevail, you’ll wind up with a judgment against you, plus court costs and attorney’s fees depending on the jurisdiction. And you’ll still have to move your RV!
A lot can ride on your RV’s particular class, as well. And this is why we suggest knowing the type of vehicle you have. If your HOA or condo association restricts residential vehicles, your particular vehicle may or may not qualify under their rules. Yes, a Class A rig is going to be a target for enforcement no matter what you do.; but campervans may be another story. It all depends on the exact language in your HOA documents (or zoning laws, for that matter).
You may also have an out if you can show the court evidence of favoritism or uneven enforcement against other RV owners on the property. Yes, the HOA does have the right to pass restrictions by a proper vote (with quorum, minutes, and all the rest that goes along with due process), and where they pass them, they have a right to enforce them, although state laws can vary on the details. They do, however, have to enforce them evenly, consistently and fairly. For example, if there are several RVs in your HOA, they should be giving everyone the same citations and the same ‘notice with an opportunity to cure,’ as applicable.
When it comes down to complying with, or contesting, zoning enforcement and HOA CC&Rs, the Devil is in the details.