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Is It Legal To Live in a Camper in Your Backyard in California?

San Jose is a beautiful place to live in California’s Bay Area. Many locations throughout California are perfect for camping because of their spectacular views of the mountains or the coast. Therefore, many residents in San Jose own campers to take advantage of the exceptional camping opportunities across the state.

However, what do you do with your camper when you are not using it? Some people store their campers in their backyards. Since it is a livable space, they might be tempted to allow friends or family members to live in their camper in the backyard.

Before you decide to live in a camper in your backyard or allow someone else to, it is crucial that you research the applicable laws that might apply. In some instances, you could face severe fines and penalties if you live in a camper in your backyard in California.

State and Federal Laws Governing Campers as Residences in California 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) explains that an RV is used for recreational purposes. It is not intended for permanent occupancy or as a primary residence. 

The clarification means that manufacturers and dealers of RVs are not subject to the same standards imposed for mobile homes. Mobile homes are subject to more regulations because they are intended to be used as a primary residence. 

Even though HUD states that a camper is not intended for use as a primary residence, it is unlikely that HUD would come to your home and fine you for living in your camper in your backyard in California. Instead, you need to worry about the City of San Jose and the State of California.

California’s Health & Safety Code defines recreational vehicles (RV) as travel trailers, truck campers, camping trailers, or motor homes with or without power. An RV is designed for people to use for “recreational, emergency, or other occupancy.” The camper must meet the following criteria to be a “recreational vehicle” in California:

  • The gross area is 400 square feet or less;
  • There are less than 320 square feet of internal living area, excluding built-in equipment;
  • The RV is built on a single chassis; and,
  • The camper is truck-mounted, self-propelled, or permanent towable.

State laws do not expressly prohibit living in a camper in your backyard. However, the state allows counties and cities to enact laws restricting the use of RVs and campers in their jurisdiction. 

Furthermore, if you live in a subdivision or area subject to a homeowner’s association (HOA), restrictions could prohibit RVs, campers, boats, and other vehicles from being parked in a yard.

San Jose Laws Governing RVs Within the City Limits

The San Jose Code of Ordinances §6.46.040 prohibits using a “house car or any automobile trailer” for sleeping or living accommodations anywhere in the city outside of a lawfully operated auto camp or mobile home park. There are exceptions for individuals who want to use a camper on someone’s property with the resident’s consent or no longer than 48 hours and with a permit from a health officer. 

The municipal code also restricts the parking and storage of RVs at residences within the city. However, government officials have been working on solutions to battle the homelessness crisis, including creating RV parking lots that allow people to live in an RV within city limits.

What Should I Do if I Want To Live in a Camper in My Backyard in California?

If you want to live in a camper or allow someone to live in a camper on your residential property, the first step is to research the laws applicable to your city and county. You should also check for restrictions that apply to your neighborhood that might prohibit parking RVs and campers on your lot. 

In addition to criminal penalties, you may risk civil liability if someone is injured in the camper. If you are served with legal documents, arrested, or fined because you have a camper in your yard, you can speak with a San Jose criminal defense lawyer about your legal rights and options during a free consultation.

For more information, please contact our criminal defense law firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys at the nearest location for a free consultation.

Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys – San Jose Office
1625 The Alameda, Suite 405, San Jose, CA 95126
(408) 217-8818

Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys – Redwood City Office
600 Allerton St Suite 201G, Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 299-0500

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