Can You Legally Live in an RV on Your Property in Indiana?
Camping is a popular activity for many families and individuals in Indiana. It's nice to pack up the RV or camper and get away from all the noise of the city and just relax for a couple of days with nothing but the sounds of nature surrounding you. While some choose the more rustic route with a tent, a sleeping bag, and the bare essentials, others prefer bringing several of the comforts of home with them including a camper or RV that's basically a home on wheels, featuring recliners, TVs, fireplaces, surround sound systems, and more. With home prices seemingly getting higher and higher all the time, it would actually be cheaper just to buy some property and park an RV on it. The question is, can you do that legally in Indiana? The answer isn't a simple "yes" or "no."
Is It Legal to Live in a Camper in Your Backyard in Indiana?
Suhre & Associates, a law firm in Indianapolis, dove into this question on their website. Here's what they had to say:
Unfortunately, RVs are not considered permanent residences. Living in an RV permanently in your backyard may not be legal. Many states or cities do not recognize recreational vehicles as permanent residences. They are for travel or temporary stays. Therefore, homeowners must be careful about living in an RV in their backyard.
With that said, they do note that RV laws vary state by state, and the zoning laws within the state vary by city. Let's take a look at how the law is written in Indiana.
Indiana Recreational Vehicle ("RV") Code
According to LawServer.com, Indiana Code 9-13-2-150 defines a recreational vehicle as, "a vehicle with or without motive power equipped exclusively for living quarters for persons traveling upon the highways." The code goes on to say, the term "recreational vehicle" does include the vehicle "is not permanently affixed to real property for use as a permanent dwelling."
That sounds like a resounding, "No" to the initial question if you ask me. However, that doesn't mean the option of living in your camper or RV on your property is completely off the table. What it does mean is that you can't use it as a permanent home.
Some city and county ordinances permit homeowners to park an RV in their yard or driveway for a few days. The intent is to allow family or friends who may be traveling to stay in their RV a few days as they visit.
I imagine, and this is pure speculation on my part, parking your camper or RV in your driveway or yard and living in it for a short length of time while a major home remodel is going on inside your home would be OK.
Let's take a look at the ordinances for a few of our counties here in southern Indiana to see where they stand.
Vanderburgh County / Evansville
According to zoning ordinance 17.12.130, recreational vehicles are among the items listed that "may not be used as living or sleeping quarters within the county except within the confines of an approved mobile home court."
Within Evansville city limits, RVs are permitted on a property for 180 days if a building is/will be undergoing structural alterations, reconstruction, or repairs if the damage "equals or exceeds 40 percent of the value of the pre-altered building." If that is/will be the case, it must be included when applying for the building permit.
As "authorized by Indiana code 36-7-4 et seq.," RVs can be installed on a site for up to 180 days, but must also "be fully licensed and ready for highway use."
Code 153.021, Section F states that recreational vehicles "may not be used as living or sleeping quarters except when in the confines of an approved mobile home park or approved by Special Exception in the Agricultural District."
Check with Your Local Government
Despite what the county law says, each city and town within these counties may have its own law when it comes to living in an RV or camper on your property. While the information above is a good start, ordinance codes are often lengthy documents. Your best bet is to check with your county or city office for clarification on the ordinance where you live before moving forward with any plans to set up a permanent camping spot in your backyard.
[Source: Suhre & Associates]