Americans love their RVs. Maybe it goes back to “Easy Rider” and the siren song of living life on the open road, embedded at the root level of the modern America dream. But unlike motorcyclists, RVers get to take all their stuff with them – not to mention save a bundle on hotel costs when they travel.
According to data from the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, about 8.9 million households own an RV of one type or another. That amounts to about 8.5 percent of U.S. households – up from 8 percent of U.S. households in 2005.
The median income of the RV-owning household is $62,000. Thirty-nine percent of RV owners have children living at home, and their average age is 48 years old.
These demographics overlap a great deal with those of people who also own homes in HOA-managed communities. Sooner or later, someone in your community is going to purchase an RV of some sort – and that can cause some problems.
What vehicles are technically RVs?
Not all RVs are alike. A homeowners or condo association that might be just fine with the occasional camper van or travel trailer in someone’s driveway may not appreciate a 45-foot monstrosity or an unsightly converted school bus parked on the street all the time.
Broadly speaking, RVs fall under the following four categories. Some categories are banned by many homeowners or condo associations altogether.
Class A – These have the classic box-type frame, with roughly the dimensions of a modern charter bus. These can be basic or luxurious vehicles designed to provide all the comforts of home.
They are constructed on heavy-duty truck or bus frames and can reach lengths of 35 feet and longer. The newer Class A RVs look very clean, but are also very big, tend to obstruct views, and don’t fit in driveways in many communities – they must be parked on the street or stored off-site.
Class B – These are van-type vehicles with a sleeping/living area in the back, not separate from the driver’s compartment. They’re typically built on cargo van chassis, and are frequently referred to as “camper vans” or “conversion vans.” They can often be parked in a driveway, but they may be too tall to fit in some garages.
Class C – These are normally built on a van or truck campus and are often a hybrid between the Class A and B vehicles. They have a separate cab area, and often a space over the cab for storage or sleeping. They don’t fit in garages and, like Class A’s, won’t fit in a lot of driveways, either.
Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels – These are towed units. A travel trailer is towed behind a vehicle like a normal trailer, while a “fifth wheel” extends over the back of a truck bed and works off a special swivel hitch. The larger ones will require a substantial truck to haul. They are detachable, of course, but even if stored off-site, you still have to park a large truck somewhere. This can be problematic because some HOAs have restrictions on work trucks and other large autos in driveways.
Liability insurance for RVs
RVs are big rigs – and they can potentially cause a lot of property damage – especially when an inexperienced driver or new owner is trying to maneuver them around a residential neighborhood. You may want to consider placing something in your CC&Rs requiring adequate liability insurance for these vehicles.
They are also very lightly constructed. As such, they tend to come apart during windstorm events, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. This is another reason to insist that any RVs in your community carry adequate liability insurance.
RV parking options
Rather than enacting a strict “no RVs” policy, consider whether your community may be able to accommodate Class B camper vans, small trailers and other RVs only if they can be stored out of sight.
Where space is available, some developments may designate an RV parking area away from the residences. HOAs may also be able to get some revenue for the community by charging storage fees to RV owners. However, be careful that the HOA can absorb any liability it may incur for theft, vandalism, property damage, etc., or that the HOA is properly insured for the RV parking operation.
You may also want to take steps to address the possibility of unauthorized guests living in the RV area, or the possibility that RVs left unattended could be an attractive nuisance for children.
Even if an RV is stored off-site, RV owners may want to park in front of their homes for load-ins and load-outs for a big trip. Many communities deal with this by imposing a limit on how long the vehicle may be parked by the house. Common provisions include a 36- to 48-hour max.
HOAs that do allow RVs to be stored on-site may require owners to move them before expected windstorms, where time is available. (Note that the average warning time for tornados is 13 minutes. So if your area is prone to tornadoes, that particular arrangement may not work for your community.)