Can I Live in an RV While I Build My House?

Living in an RV while building your house is a great idea. It’s a low-cost, mobile home that doesn’t require much maintenance.

The only thing you need to consider is where you can park the RV on your land. If you don’t have enough space, you can buy an RV parking spot or rent a storage unit for your belongings.

While living in an RV on your own land may not be legal in all states, there are some exceptions. Some states allow living in RVs as long as they are properly parked and maintained. Others don’t allow them at all.

There are also some states with relaxed laws for parking RVs on private property, so it’s best to check with the local authorities before moving forward.

In this piece, we are going to talk about everything a novice needs to know about living in an RV while they are building their house. Fasten your seat belts!

Dry camping in a fifth wheel at a campsite in NC with an awning and camping chairs
There are state laws regarding permanent living in RVs you need to be aware of.

Yes, you can live in an RV on your own land while building your home. That’s the simple answer. But there’s more to it.

Legally speaking, federal and state laws prohibit using RVs as a means of continuous occupancy.

They are intended for recreational or vehicular use and not as a permanent dwelling. Authorities will naturally have a hard time tracking down a living space on wheels. 

That’s not all. Connecting a mobile home to septic is another hassle. As a consequence, the permit process is pretty lengthy in many places.

However, most states also have pretty relaxed laws about land that is not “urban.” This means the majority of rural areas or agricultural land is fair play.

Most states don’t completely outlaw living in RVs. You just have zoning ordinances and rules to follow. For example, in Idaho, the law only allows one RV camper per residential building.

Generally speaking, places that have proper zoning ordinances and large residential populations often have stricter laws. Permits are often required and can take months. And local authorities usually don’t want you living in RVs as this just makes their life more difficult.

Some states have multi-layered rules regarding permanent living in RVs.

A good example of this is Tennessee. Your land must have a permanent foundation even if the home isn’t built yet – and it must be connected to an approved septic system – for you to park your RV and live in it indefinitely.

The first step before you start researching RV types is to check with your local authorities and state laws.

Making Sure You Can Live in an RV on Your Land: Step-by-step Process

Parking an RV on your land permanently is perfectly legal.

If you plan to live in an RV at all times during the build, it’s best to have an actual building permit for the project. Otherwise, you might find yourself fined for being parked illegally on someone else’s property.

Here’s how you go about living in an RV on your land.

1. Neighborhood

The first step is determining whether or not a neighborhood is good for an RV life. This includes checking for the local crime rate and asking around whether it is allowed or preferred.

Many neighbors won’t want you living in an RV.

There could also be community-specific fines imposed on living in an RV. It’s best to check with your neighborhood authority or board.

2. Local laws and authorities

The next step is getting clarification from the local laws and authorities. Though neighborhood problems might be limited to aesthetics, safety, and transport – local laws and authorities might have more detailed requirements from an RVer.

A few of these include:

  • Connection to a septic
  • Parking timings
  • Specific premises illegal for parking RVs

For example, many counties outlaw parking an RV, camper, trailer, boat, etc. in zones marked for residential purposes and public rights-of-ways. Most streets, backyards, driveways, and lawns are out of bounds for RVs in most places.

3. Permit Requirements

Permits usually boil down to sanitary requirements set at the county and state levels. Making an inquiry is pretty easy.

Find out more from the office of your county administrator (also called a county judge, city manager, county executive, or country manager) or the mayor for the latest scoop on local RV living laws.

You might need permits for septic or water well.

4. Zoning

Different cities plan their land use by enacting different zoning laws. There are no federal zoning laws for parking RVs.

City zoning laws are generally stricter near residential areas or populous areas. Municipalities often enact zoning laws to reserve land for residential usage. Inspection is also common before you can pass any zoning laws.

Are RV Inspections Worth the Money When Buying a Used RV?
Be aware of any vehicle inspection requirements applicable to your city.

Are Some States Better for Parking RVs on Land?

We understand you’re not looking for RVing in general but living in an RV because of living space limitations.

But if moving to a different state, especially one nearby, is an option then you should definitely check out the lists below.

The Best States for RVing

South Dakota, Texas, and Florida are the most RV-friendly places to be. A large fraction of the population in these states lives in RVs. In fact, Texas ranks #3 in overall RV sales according to the RV Industry Association.

As such, it’s no surprise that these states have a lot going for them that eases the life of anyone living permanently in an RV.

Florida has great RV parks, Texas has low vehicle registration fees, and South Dakota has no vehicle inspection requirements. All three states are no income tax states.

Other perks include low registration and insurance fees, mail-forwarding services, and low RV purchase taxes.

The Okay-ish States for RVing

There are 10 states where it’s perfectly legal to live in an RV. This doesn’t mean that a particular city, county, or zone won’t have its own set of rules or hassles to go through.

  1. Arizona
  2. California
  3. Colorado
  4. Florida
  5. Nevada
  6. New York
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. South Dakota
  9. Texas
  10. Washington State

We already discussed three in the previous section.

The other 7 also allow you to live in an RV permanently but there are processes you must go through.

California and New York are quite populous and though they technically allow you to live in RVs, they also make it pretty much impossible to do so comfortably. Too many hurdles that it’s really not worth it for most people – except if you are choosing a rural region.

California has the most RV owners after only Indiana – but these are people who use their RVs for vehicular or recreational purposes mostly.

One of the biggest hurdles in both, California and New York, is that larger RVs are not permitted on many major roads. You can of course take longer routes but the gas prices are also higher here.

Ultimately this can make living in RVs permanently quite expensive if you are traveling frequently.

A permanently parked RV in these two states, once you have all the necessary permits, is pretty livable and plausible.

The remaining five states – Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington State – are decently conducive to a full-time RV life for months.

Check specifically for areas, however. For example, many areas in Wyoming are not particularly safe. Life-threatening crimes and accidents can be more frequent.

Camper RV travel trailer towed in the Redwoods in California
Choosing which state is best for full-time RVing requires a little planning ahead.

What’s the Best RV Type to Live in While Living on a Building Site?

You can comfortably live in an RV for a few months, up to a year in most cases. But your comfort largely depends on the location, access to utilities, and most importantly – the type of RV.

Motorized RVs or motorhomes are not recommended when you will be parked permanently. These include diesel and gas motorhomes divided into “classes.” Different classes have different plus points. If you intend to move a lot, motorhomes are actually better.

What we are more interested in are towable RVs. Towable RVs are RVs that can have a detached pick-up truck pulling them. If you have a permanent spot with all utilities, park one of these there with a truck once and forget about moving.

Fifth wheels are the largest of the lot. They are pulled by more powerful trucks and have all the luxuries of a home from slideouts to extra space. They are good for families.

Apart from those who’d like to move (motorhomes) or those who have a fixed spot (fifth wheels), you might fall in a different category altogether.

Here are the other options:

  • If you have a lot of stuff and gear, you might want a sports RV or a toy hauler.
  • Travel trailers are good for people with specific needs as they come in different shapes, sizes, weights, configurations, etc.
  • Campers like tiny trailers (teardrop campers) or pop-up campers are good if you are near a tourist spot and only looking to spend a few months in RV as they make camping beautiful but aren’t the most reliable for a long-term stay.
Dry camping in a fifth wheel at a campsite in NC with an awning and camping chairs
Fifth-wheels are great for families.

What Utilities You’ll Need to Have Connected?

You must connect your RV to water, sewer, and electric utilities to live comfortably. Though an RV has basic systems such as AC and plumbing, these are only good for the short-term and must be connected to external sources for permanent occupancy.

As we discussed previously, you might also be required by local laws to have some of these (most commonly, septic and water).

An RV has three tanks: a fresh water tank (potable water storage), a gray water tank (drained water), and a black water tank (toilet waste storage).

  1. Septic: You will need to connect a PVC pipe to a septic tank to clean out the grey and black tanks of your RV. A permanently parked RV with an idle septic tank can keep this pipe screwed in all the time.

  2. Water: Hook up the source (such as a campground water supply) to your RV’s fresh water tank. Make sure you screw it tightly to avoid wastage.

  3. Electricity: You can’t just hook up any source of power to your RV. Some critical supplies include an all-weather extension cord, 30/50 Amp hookup, and a 15/20 Amp adapter. Only connect any power source after turning off any appliances – instant load can trip the breakers.

  4. Phone and Internet: A cell phone is not sufficient for an RV home. We recommend a hotspot for the internet and a common phone for calls. Many network operators have specific data-only plans for hotspots and other network-capable devices, we recommend getting in touch with the best one in your area.

  5. Well: If you don’t have easy access to water outlets for fresh water, you might want to construct a well for your usage. The well can also come in handy once your home is finished.

  6. Road access: There’s not much to consider if you are limited to parking on your land – but if you have an option to park elsewhere, you need to find a problem-free spot that’s close to the main road. This is good in case of emergencies.

RV parks are also a good option. They have all the basic amenities and the company is never bad. RV parks can cost you anywhere from $500 to $1,500 depending on the place and utilities (some even have pools).

Generators, solar panels, and battery-inverter combinations are good for additional electricity or if you cannot get a good, reliable electric connection.

WiFi Boosters
As far as the internet goes, WiFi in your RV works just like WiFi anywhere else.

Postal Address

Let’s address the postal issue.

You cannot register an RV as your home for postal deliveries. This is because an RV is not considered a physical home

The easiest way out is to have a friend or family member receive mail for you. If that’s not an option, then you can use a third-party mail forwarding service. Many RV-specific mail forwarding services exist in all states.

If none of that works, you can get a postal box for your general location if there’s none. It can cost anywhere from $50 to $75 – all you need to do is go to the website of the United States Postal Service to apply for a box. Renting a PO box is easy.

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