Yes, in most cases you can park overnight at a hospital and get away without incident. This actually happens a lot with people visiting family members in the hospital, and with traveling nurses. But, it is also common for nomads and stealth campers to sleep overnight in hospital parking lots. Very few cities and counties have addressed hospital parking in law, though it could still be illegal in other ways.
Can You Park Overnight at a Hospital?
It’s very common to see people sleeping in a vehicle overnight at a hospital parking lot. Many of these people are actual family members of patients being treated inside the hospital. Traveling nurses commonly sleep in vans in hospital parking lots.
But hospital parking lots are also common overnight parking accommodations for many stealth campers and van dwellers.
Is it Illegal to Park Overnight at a Hospital?
In most cases, no. While all cities have parking laws, they don’t normally address hospital parking lots.
However, many cities do address sleeping in vehicles or camping within city limits. However, law enforcement typically only look for these vehicles parked along streets or in shopping centers. When it comes to hospital parking lots, they leave that matter to hospital security.
Even Though it’s Private Property, it May Still Be Okay
Every state in the United States recognizes a legal term called, “implied consent”. This means, if an owner has not put a fence around their property, and has not put up signs warning you to keep out, then there is “implied consent” for you to enter their grounds. Read more about this at, “Is it Illegal to Camp on Private Property Without Getting Permission?“
Many hospitals do not have fenced parking lots, and it seems none have put up signs telling people to stay away. Thus, you have consent to drive your vehicle into their parking lot and stay there until they order you to leave.
Even if a hospital has a gated parking lot, there is still “implied consent” if the gate allows the public to enter (such as by taking a ticket or paying a fee).
Some Hospitals Have Rules Against Overnight Parking
Larger hospitals, particularly those operated by a university, have rules against overnight parking, or parking exceeding a certain amount of hours. Hospitals in smaller towns typically have no such rules.
Regardless if a hospital has parking rules or not, it’s always in your best interest to remain quiet and not draw attention to yourself.
Many Hospital Parking Lots Are Too Small
Hospitals in dense, urban areas have small parking lots, and will not accommodate anything larger than a van. Moreover, they will have gates that require you to take a ticket and pay to get out.
Look for hospitals outside of town, or in suburban areas, or hospitals in rural areas. These typically have larger parking lots, and are not gated.
Beware of Hospital Security Staff
All hospitals have security staff that patrol the entire hospital campus. If a hospital does not already have gated parking, or if it has limited parking, you can be sure they will enforce parking rules.
Even if a hospital has no rules against overnight parking, security staff can still kick you out if they decide you’re a threat to the peace and quiet of the hospital.
Should I Call the Hospital and Ask for Permission?
We do not recommend this.
The reason why is because the person responsible for answering phone calls from the general public has no authority to grant this permission. That person will have to “ask their supervisor”, who will always answer with “no”, or that person will just answer “no” to play it safe.
Instead, we recommend just parking there, and giving it a try. The worst that will happen is a security guard asking you to leave.
Tips for Overnight Parking at Hospital Parking Lots
- Arrive in the evening, and leave by the morning. Don’t extend your stay beyond 12 hours.
- Hospital security staff can easily remember which vehicles have been there too long.
- Don’t call nearby friends to come visit you. Don’t call pizza delivery. Don’t draw any attention to yourself.
- Be respectful. Don’t toss cigarette butts out your window. Don’t loiter around hospital buildings.
- Keep your windows blocked off to prevent light from escaping your vehicle.
- Remain silent. Wear headphones when watching video or listening to music. Keep your windows closed when talking on the phone.