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.
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.
After white water rafting & climbing 6000ft, Washington Mountain, kids are so excited about RV Park toys! Sheesh. pic.twitter.com/OQ6Jv8egHZ
— Katherine W (@superstrictmom) June 13, 2015
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.
— Tina Adams (@tinanadams) June 11, 2018
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.
Just click the link to read more on my site.
— Washington Coast (@TheWACoast) June 18, 2018
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 throughout 29 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.
Hello, I’m Maci, and I’m a stay-at-home, roadschooling momma!
We sold most of our stuff, left our 2,700sqft home, and moved full-time into a ~300sqft RV to journey around the United States with our two daughters.
— BSlicksWife| Visions.of.Sugar.Plums (@BSlicksWife) November 28, 2020
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.
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.
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.