Is It Legal to Live in an RV with a Child in Washington State? | RV Parenting (2023)

Is It Legal to Live in an RV with a Child in Washington State? | RV Parenting (1)

It is common for families with kids to live in an RV. But laws can vary from state to state, especially if you are separated or going through a divorce. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, you may have wondered, is it legal to live in an RV with a child in Washington State?

Here’s what I found out when I was looking into it:

It is legal to live in an RV with a child in Washington State, but you need to be aware of local ordinances, especially in Seattle where the restrictions are the tightest. Kids are required to be in school from the age of 8 and in order to get a driver’s license, you’ll need to establish a permanent residence.

But that’s not all there is to know.

In this article, we’ll take a look at whether you can live in an RV with a child in Washington. We’ll look at Washington in general, with some specific information for Seattle which has, by far, the largest number of ordinances against vehicle residences.

So let’s dive in!

Is it legal to live in an RV in Washington state?

It is legal to live in an RV in Washington State. However, many RV parks have stay limits. Certain cities, counties, and neighborhood HOAs also have zoning restrictions to prevent living on private property. But it will work to switch RV parks periodically.

Regardless of local ordinances, I couldn’t find any state laws preventing people from living in RVs.

In fact, according to the Department of Revenue, you can be considered a resident of Washington State, if you live in “a motor home or vessel which is not permanently attached to any property if the person previously lived in this state and does not have a permanent residence in any other state.” (source)

If you want to live permanently in an RV park, your biggest concern will be local zoning ordinances.Some parks will let you live in them for up to 180 days and others 210 days.

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But some parks will let you stay year-round.

Some parks may offer discounted rates with weekly, monthly, and yearly rates.

Read this recent article on my site to see how long you can stay at an RV park. It really depends on the park and the local zoning ordinances.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Does Washington State allow homeschooling in an RV?

Washington State requires children to receive a state-sanctioned education starting no later than age 8, and homeschooling is one of the approved options and is appropriate for living in an RV.

Homeschooling can absolutely be done in an RV. The nice thing about homeschooling is that it can be done anywhere, even from an RV. In homeschooling, it is important to join a support group or co-op.

They will give you support and connection with other homeschooling families.

Oftentimes, they have field trips and educational activities for kids. They will also provide moral support and guidance for homeschooling parents.

Washington state has a very informative site regarding homeschooling. It includes laws and regulations, as well as tons of resources for getting started with homeschooling. (source)

If your kid isn’t school-aged yet, you probably have a lot of questions about whether you can live in a camper with a baby. It is absolutely possible to live in a camper with a baby, but it comes with its own set of challenges.

I’ve addressed those challenges in this recent article. I get into all my best tips for kids of all ages, including the tips I use with my 3 kids.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

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What constitutes unfit living conditions for a child in Washington State?

A number of issues are considered “unfit.” In Washington state, drug use, alcohol abuse, educational or medical neglect, and not providing a child with access to electricity, water, and clean clothes are all conditions that are considered unfit.

When it comes to child custody in Washington, there are several factors the courts will take into consideration, including the living conditions. Ultimately, they want both parents to be actively involved in their children’s lives.

The courts don’t want to get involved in parenting styles and preferences. So, if you prefer to live in an RV, the court is unlikely to get involved.

Abuse, neglect, and extreme filth are unfit living conditions.

Additionally, you must be of sound mind and able to take care of a child. If you are a drug user, an alcoholic, or suffer from a mental illness that renders you incapable of taking care of a child, it could be rendered an unfit environment.

If you are in a divorce situation or have a custody agreement in place, you need to make sure you do not violate a custody agreement.

I wrote this recent article on whether CPS can take your kid for living in an RV. Unless you’re putting your child in danger of living in extreme filth, CPS is unlikely to take your children.

Just click the link to read more on my site.

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Is it legal to live with a child in an RV in Seattle?

It is legal to live in an RV with a child in Seattle. However, most RV parks have a 180 maximum stay, and parking on the street has a 72-hour limit. Seattle also has the largest number of ordinances that criminalize vehicle residency.

So Seattle is not really where you want to be if you plan to live in an RV.

The city does allow people to park overnight in church parking lots. But if you are living in a church parking lot, you’re likely not providing a stable environment for a child.

Children need stability, and it’s required by courts and CPS. An unstable environment could not only mean a violation of a custody agreement, but it could also be grounds for a visit from CPS.

If you will live in your RV on private property, it needs to have an approved foundation. This means you’ll have to take into account property lines and follow local building codes. You also need to be connected to water, sewer, and power.

A recent study by Seattle University School of Law found that:

  • Vehicle residents are often required to move their vehicles frequently throughout the city in order to stay in compliance with time and location restrictions.
  • Researchers found a total of 291ordinances criminalizing vehicle residency throughout29 cities in Washington State.
  • Seattle reported a total of 504,944 citations for vehicle residents over a five year period

Many folks in Seattle have been trying to bring change to the regulations, but unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten very far.

If you don’t own any property of your own, your best bet may be to find an RV park that is open year-round. But again, you’ll likely need more than 1 park as you’ll most likely have to move after 180 days.

If you don’t want to live in an RV park, you might want to consider dry camping.

You can dry camp for a maximum of 14 days before you need to dump your tanks, charge your batteries, and fuel your generators.

But dry camping isn’t meant to be a permanent situation, especially with a child. But it could be a fun, temporary adventure.

If you’re new to RV life, you might want to make your first dry camping experience a short trip.

To read more about dry camping and how to do it successfully, check out this recent article. I get into everything you need to know about dry camping.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

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Is it legal to live in a trailer on someone else’s property with kids in Washington State?

Yes. You can live in a trailer on your own land, someone else’s land, or a mobile home park, with or without children. Just be aware of any HOA by-laws or local ordinances, and ensure children have access to electricity and water.

Most larger cities will have ordinances and codes in place that require you to adhere to certain requirements. The further outside of the city you live in, the more likely you’ll be able to live in a trailer undisturbed.

If you are considering renting a mobile home in Washington, you should be able to do so without any problems.

Just like the rest of the country, there are mobile home parks all over Washington. So, if you want to rent a trailer your best bet may be to go through a mobile home park, a realtor, or even a private individual renting out a trailer.

In fact, living in a rented trailer on private property will definitely look better to the judge and CPS than living in an RV would.

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Did I answer everything you wanted to know about living in an RV with a child in Washington State?

For the most part, you can live in Washington State in an RV. But it’s one of the least friendly states in the US for living in an RV, and Seattle is the worst city in the state for that.

(Video) Camera records CPS encounter

But if you are living on a large piece of private property, chances are no one will bother you.

Washington has excellent resources for homeschooling. If you don’t want to live in an RV, you can always rent a trailer.


Can you live in an RV full time with kids? ›

Yes, you really can! Although, you do need to have a legal mailing address and pay taxes to a particular state. Yet, you absolutely can live and travel in an RV with your kids! Many of our members join Escapees with their first year of their Fulltime Families membership, which is FREE when they join Fulltime Families.

Is it legal to live in an RV in Washington? ›

It is illegal to occupy a recreational vehicle: Without a temporary use permit.

Can you raise kids in an RV? ›

RVers have the answer. Traveling with their kids in tow is the best way to go. These so-called Active Family Adventurers are the ones considering and buying RVs. Their rigs provide the ideal setting for capitalizing on the benefits of camping with children.

Can an RV be considered a primary residence? ›

Declaring your main home

Your main home is the one where you ordinarily live most of the year. This can be a boat or RV even if it doesn't have a permanent location. As long as it contains the required facilities, you can claim it as your main home on your taxes.

Can you live in an RV with a toddler? ›

Fulltime RVing with our kids is something we wanted to do with them before they were even born, and I'm beyond happy we leaped and made it happen. With a little patience, a whole lot of love, and some very handy must have items, we've enjoyed every minute of living the RV life dream with our toddlers!

What states allow full time RV living? ›

However, if you're looking to purchase land and live in an RV full-time, a few states stand out as more accommodating than others. In addition to the ones mentioned above, some of these are: Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

How long can you live in an RV in Washington State? ›

ready RV as temporary living quarters on the property . Guests can occupy the RV for up to 180 days in any 12-month period when the property is outside of the floodway, and within the previously listed zones.

Can I live in a camper in my parents backyard? ›

It is illegal to live in an RV in your backyard for one simple reason – because the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development does not classify them as permanent dwellings. The federal government states that RVs should only be used for recreational, travel, or camping purposes.

What is the 333 RV rule? ›

By adhering to this simple rule of thumb, you can make traveling easier for your whole family. What is this? First, limit your travel to no more than 300 miles in one day. Second, arrive no later than 3 p.m. Finally, stay at your destination for at least three days.

What is the RV 10 year rule? ›

The ten-year rule at RV parks. “The Ten Year Rule” is a code that's enforced at many upscale RV parks around the country. The rule implies that RVs older than 10 years are too weathered and worn and should be prohibited. The rule is often enforced regardless of how pristine the RV actually is.

Can families live in an RV? ›

The RV lifestyle gives us complete freedom over where we go and what we do. I also love that we have been able to save money and spend lots of family time together. We have found that RV living suits our family perfectly, but it is not for everyone.

How do I make my RV a permanent home? ›

More lenient zoning requirements allow RVs to be permanent residences if they meet the same housing codes as traditional homes. This includes having sewer access or a septic system, access to fresh water, and possibly even electrical.

What qualifies something as a primary residence? ›

Your primary residence (also known as a principal residence) is your home. Whether it's a house, condo or townhome, if you take up occupancy there for the majority of the year and can prove it, it's your primary residence, and it could qualify for a lower mortgage rate.

How many years can you live in an RV? ›

The short answer is that the average lifespan of an RV is around 20 years or 200,000 miles, whichever comes first. But the answer isn't quite that simple.

What is the 2 2 2 rule for RV? ›

The RVing 2/2/2 rule is a safe and effective way to plan your travel. It means drive no more than 200 miles a day, stop every 2 hours, and stay 2 nights in each place. Some RVers also put an appendix on the rule encouraging drivers to arrive at an overnight destination by 2:00 p.m.

Can kids sleep in moving RV? ›

Is it Legal for Passengers to Sleep in a Motorhome RV While Driving? Passenger safety is key while riding in a motorhome. While taking a nap isn't prohibited, it is illegal and unsafe to occupy an RV bed while the vehicle is moving. An injury or worse could happen if the vehicle were to be in an accident.

What are the 3 rules of RVing? ›

The 3 3 3 rule for RVing is a set of three pieces of advice to make traveling by RV more comfortable and enjoyable. The rules are that you should travel less than 300 miles per day, arrive at a destination before 3 PM, and stay there for at least 3 days.

Is it financially smart to buy an RV? ›

Is an RV a Financial Investment? The short answer is no. With the exception of some in-demand vintage models, the value of an RV depreciates over time. An RV is an investment in a lifestyle, but you can mitigate the expense by renting it out when not in use through a third-party rental site like Outdoorsy or RVshare.

Do you have to pay taxes if you live in an RV? ›

Just like you did when you lived in a house or apartment, you'll still need to file a federal income tax return.

What is the cheapest state to live in an RV? ›

If you don't want to settle in Montana, don't worry. South Dakota, Florida, and Texas are the next best places as the cheapest state to buy an RV. The taxes and other fees in these states are pretty low, and you can shift your domicile there without much hassle.

Can I buy land and live in an RV in Washington State? ›

You can live in your trailer on your land. However, You'll need to follow some guidelines. An RV can be a permanent residence for tax purposes or to claim residency in many states.

Is there a lemon law for RVs in Washington State? ›

The Washington State Motor Vehicle “Lemon Law” was enacted to help new vehicle owners who have substantial continuing problems with warranty repairs. The law allows the owner to request an arbitration hearing through the Lemon Law Administration of Attorney General's Office.

How much money do you need to live full time in an RV? ›

We have seen monthly full time RV living budgets from fellow travelers as low as $1,600 and as high as $5,000. If you really want to go minimal, you can easily live this life for around $1,000 per month by finding a free spot to park your rig for extended periods or by becoming a camp host.

Can you live in an RV all year round? ›

One of the most amazing parts of RV Living its overall flexibility. Some RVers are weekend warriors, while some travel for long trips, and others live in their RVs full time.

Can you camp on your own property in Washington State? ›

Living off-grid in Washington State is legal. However, along with Oregon, the state has some very strict land-use laws designed to protect the environment. While these laws generally don't make it illegal to live off-grid, they do put severe limits on what you can do on your property.

Is it cheaper to live in an RV or an apartment? ›

Overall, living in an RV can be a significantly cheaper option than renting an apartment – especially if you're looking for saving money.

Can you live in an RV on someone's property in Washington state? ›

That said, many localities, such as Florida, South Dakota, Texas, and Washington State, have rather lax regulations when it comes to this sort of living arrangement. In these places, you're not likely to run into trouble unless someone files a complaint with the local authorities.

Can you live full-time in an RV? ›

You can live in an RV luxuriously or on a budget. The major expenses of full-time RV life are campsite fees, fuel, RV and vehicle payments, and activities as you travel. Don't forget to account for maintenance, repairs, groceries, mobile phones, WiFi, insurance, and other daily costs like food and supplies.

Can you park and sleep in a camper anywhere? ›

As far as most motorhome and campervan experts can say, there is currently no specific legislation or law to prevent you from sleeping in a vehicle at the roadside.

Is it financially smart to live in an RV? ›

It is financially smart to live in an RV. Living in an RV means living a lot smaller with a lot less stuff. You have less room for everything – clothes, toys, tools and more saving you a lot of money. Along with less space, you save on utilities and home-improvement projects if you own your home.

Can a family of 4 live in an RV? ›

As you can see, living in a camper with your family of 4 is definitely possible. The tips we've provided should help you get started thinking about how you can live well and affordably while traveling with your family.


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