Is it Legal to Live in an RV with a child in California?


Living in an RV can be a great way to save money before settling down into a permanent residence or a temporary thing after a divorce. But if you have kids, you may be wondering if is it legal to live in an RV with a child in California.

I did some research, and here’s what I found out:

No laws in California prohibit living in an RV with a child, and CPS will not take a child for that reason alone. But do make sure to avoid violating custody agreements, and make sure basic needs are met – food, power, water, clothing, etc. For school-aged children, also make sure they are getting a proper education.

But that’s not all there is to know about living in an RV in California with kids.

And after all, we can’t just look at state laws. We also need to check out the laws in some of the major cities, as some do have ordinances in place that affect this. And we’ll also get into some specifics of unfit living conditions as CPS sees them.

Just keep reading to learn more!

Is it legal to live in an RV in California?

There are no laws prohibiting you from living in an RV. But many HOAs will prohibit living in an RV in residential neighborhoods. Additionally, not all RV parks allow year-round residents.

In 2018, a federal judge blocked San Diego from enforcing a municipal code that would have outlawed living in vehicles.

The law, known as the “vehicle habitation ordinance,” made it illegal for anyone to use a vehicle as either temporary or permanent living quarters while it was parked on any street.

Now, residents cannot be ticketed or have their vehicles impounded for living in their RV.

In fact, taking it a step further, the law was repealed entirely in 2019, “as living in vehicles is a necessary survival strategy for San Diego’s large and diverse homeless population.” source

In other parts of California, like Los Angeles, laws are not so lenient. More than 7,000 people live in vehicles in Los Angeles, and of course, some of those are RVs. With that comes hefty overnight parking rules and regulations.

For example, you can park on a residential street overnight, but you must be 500 feet away from schools, preschools, daycare facilities, or parks. You also can’t park in an alley or alleyway at any time.

You can, however, stay in RV parks that are available throughout the city. Many RV parks have a limit of 28 days, and others don’t have any limits at all.

To read more about how long you can stay in an RV park, read this recent article. I get into all the averages for the length of stay across several different RV parks in the US.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

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

Living in an RV with a child in Los Angeles is not illegal as long as the RV is not parked on a public street. Plan to park the RV in a designated camping facility so the child has access to power and running water.

Sadly, California as a whole is home to 22 percent of the nation’s homeless. Many of those people are individuals and families living in RVs.

While it’s not illegal to live in an RV, it is illegal in many parts of California to sleep in vehicles parked on the street. In 2019 almost 9,000 people were living out of RVs. source

So unless you want to be ticketed and fined to death, you’ll either need to move around frequently or find a more permanent place to park. For short-term overnight parking, you can always check with:

  • Walmart
  • Camping World
  • Cracker Barrel

Those companies and many others do allow overnight use of their parking lots to RV’ers. However, those facilities will not have hookups in most cases.

So to keep CPS happy, make sure you’ve got a generator and fresh water in your RV.

Truck stops are an excellent option for short-term parking, too. As an added perk, you get access to showers, toilet facilities, fuel, and any small shopping you may need to do.

So first and foremost, make sure you are following the laws.

If you don’t want to get ticketed, you should live in one of the many RV parks across Los Angeles. In LA, you’ll find RV parks with great amenities, like wi-fi, swimming pools, playgrounds, showers, and laundry rooms, among other things.

CPS wants to keep children at home whenever possible.

They also want to keep kids safe. There are many reasons for them to take your child, but they all revolve around the health and safety of your child.

I was able to find this checklist of health and safety standards of a family caregiver home. Keep in mind that this won’t all necessarily apply to parents but alternative related caregivers.

This is just to give you an idea of the kinds of things CPS will look for.

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

It is legal to live in an RV in San Diego, and San Diego has recently repealed vehicle habitation laws. Just ensure the RV is not parked on a public street and instead is on private property, ideally in an RV park with access to power, water, and sewer.

San Diego does still have parking laws limiting where you can park overnight.

So, if you want to live in your RV, you need to make sure it’s parked in an RV park or a piece of property. Even though it is legal to live in an RV, you still need to check local zoning ordinances to make sure it is legally parked.

Because it’s legal to live in an RV, it’s safe to assume it’s legal to do so with a child.

CPS wants to keep families together. But primarily, they want kids to be safe. They can’t take your kid without a court order to do so. And they can’t get a court order without good cause.

If you have a custody agreement in place that specifies where and how your child lives, that may in itself be a good enough reason to have your child removed from your care. So make sure you are following any custody agreements, too.

If you are a family living with a baby in a camper, you’ll have another set of challenges to face.

Check out this recent article where I talk about the challenges of living in an RV with a baby. I get into all the specifics I’ve learned from traveling in RVs with my 3 daughters starting when my oldest was only 4 months old.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

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

Currently, it is not legal to live in San Francisco in an RV at all. There are ordinances in place making it illegal to sleep in a vehicle between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in San Francisco. And you can be ticketed for it.

But like San Diego, the legislature is working on a bill to decriminalize living in a car or van.

Also, some cities offer safe spaces to park overnight, like church parking lots. These safe places have security guards, toilets, and access to water for washing.

In fact, there is currently only 1 RV park in San Francisco and they limit stays to 28 days maximum. If you are able, you can stay outside of the city limits in places like San Bruno, Millbrae, Redwood City, etc.

So while it’s not technically legal to live in an RV, CPS won’t take your kid simply for doing so. But you do need to make plans for education, healthcare, and other basic needs.

There are many reasons CPS can take your child, but they all revolve around the health and safety of your child. The main concerns for RV living would be environmental danger and inadequate care.

To read more about whether CPS will take your child for living in an RV, read this recent article. I get into all the conditions that might constitute unfit living conditions, including the 1 small thing many of us probably already do!

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How do kids attend school in California if they live in an RV?

California requires kids to be in school from the age of 6 until their 18th birthday. For children living in an RV, they can register at the public school in their zone, attend any private school, or be homeschooled.

So a brick-and-mortar school isn’t the only way to educate your kids.

The easiest way to educate your kids is to enroll them in a public school. But schools usually want you to live within the district.

Schools will also have strict attendance requirements, which means that your kid will have to be physically in school for a certain number of days.

There are options for school besides a brick-and-mortar school, though. You can do online schooling or even homeschooling.

Online schools are typically public schools that are done entirely online.

You still have lessons and homework that needs to be turned in and teachers you’ll meet within a virtual setting. Just like a traditional public school, they are free to attend.

If you go that route, you have to have a consistently stable internet connection. That’s not always possible when living in an RV.

California also has “Option 3” homeschooling, where parents or guardians are solely responsible for educating their kids. There are no strict attendance requirements, but you are responsible for keeping up with grades, progress reports, and testing.

California has an abundance of resources to guide parents along their homeschooling journey at this website.

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

While it’s not illegal to live in an RV specifically, it could be illegal to park overnight in many places.

Ultimately, CPS’s goal is to keep kids with their parents. So, if you are not violating any custody orders and keeping your kids healthy, safe, and educated, you may not have anything to worry about.

With that said, living in your RV in California is generally frowned upon. And most government regulations are vague on the subject, leaving room to handle each living situation on a case-by-case basis.

If you want to go way off the grid for some educational fun and adventure, you could try a short dry camping trip.

Just read this recent article to learn the ins and outs of dry camping. How long you can go without hookups and tank dumping depends on a few factors. But there’s 1 key that can allow you to stretch it to 14 days or even longer!

Just click the link to read it on my site.


Photo which requires attribution:

Summer Camping Trip by Virginia State Parks is licensed under CC2.0 and had a text overlay added

Cassandra & Jeff Campbell

Cassandra and Jeff Campbell travel on and off with their 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. They write extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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