Boondocking Basics

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Is Boondockers Welcome Illegal?

Is Boondockers Welcome Illegal?


It depends. Boondockers Welcome might be illegal depending on the location being offered for parking, and depending on local ordinances. Many cities and counties have laws on the books that would make it illegal for people to park their RV, or camp in their RV, along streets, driveways, front yards, side yards, or other areas of private property.

boondockers welcome
Overnighting at a Boondockers Welcome site in San Diego, CA

Is Boondockers Welcome Illegal?

Boondockers Welcome is an online marketplace where homeowners can offer their driveways or other portions of their property to RVers, usually for overnight, but sometimes for several nights. The marketplace has grown in popularity due to the shortage of safe, cheap, and relatively quiet, overnight RV spaces.

Boondockers Welcome, however, does not ensure that the spaces listed on its marketplace are actually legal for overnight parking. It instead requires the homeowner to self-certify that he or she has checked this out themselves.

If it turns out that the homeowner didn’t do his or her due diligence in ensuring that you will be legally parked and camped, law enforcement will cite YOU, not the homeowner, for violating city or county code. Therefore, it behooves you to do your own research into the city or county you plan to park and sleep overnight in.

Beware of Public Property

Boondockers Welcome maintains a policy against homeowners listing public property on its website. This includes parking along public streets. If you see someone listing the curb in front of their home, you can be pretty certain its illegal.

Many Cities Have Outlawed Parking RVs in Residential Areas

Many cities have laws on the books that prohibit large vehicles from parking along residential streets for more than 24 hours. This includes RVs. For example, the City of Denver, Sec. 54-464…

It shall be unlawful for any person to park or allow to be parked: (2) A truck containing an attached camper with a combined overall length exceeding twenty-two (22) feet, a recreation vehicle exceeding twenty-two (22) feet in length, or an automobile trailer and/or boat trailer attached to a licensed vehicle, for a period of time longer than twenty-four (24) hours during any given week on a public right-of-way adjacent to any property which has been designated as a residential zone district or which contains a single-unit or multiple-unit dwelling; except where such vehicles are engaged in rendering services in the immediate area, or where such vehicles are parked adjacent to a zone lot on which is located a motel or hotel being used by the operator of such vehicle.

City of Denver, Sec. 54-464 Large Vehicle Parking

Some Cities Do Not Allow RV Parking in Front Yards and Side Yards

Many cities don’t want the sight of large recreational vehicles parked in the front or side areas of a house, and instead require that they be parked behind the house, or in a garage. For example, the City of Tempe, AZ, under ZDC 4-602.B…

7. Recreational vehicles and unmounted truck campers, exceeding twenty-one (21) feet in length and all boats and trailers shall not be parked in the required front yard building setback or required street side yard setback.

City of Tempe, ZDC 4-602.B Parking Standards Applicable in All Zoning Districts

Violation of Zoning Laws

Many cities and counties will permit homeowners to park RVs on their property, but only if the RV is owned (or leased) by the homeowner. That is, the zoning laws for residential areas usually do not allow homeowners to use their land to offer overnight parking. For example the City of Norwalk, CA, under 10.08.120…

The following regulations shall be applicable to vehicles parked, stored or maintained in an R-1, R-2, R-3, R-H, or C and O Zone, or on any other property utilized for residential purposes: C. Automobiles, buses, motor homes, motor trucks, vans, campers/camper shells, camp trailers, boats and similar recreation vehicles or equipment on trailers, utility trailers and tent trailers may be parked in a required rear yard or on any other portion of a property, if such portion is not otherwise regulated by this Section 10.08.120; provided that: 1. The equipment or vehicles are owned or leased by residents of the premises;

City of Norwalk, 10.08.120 Parking and storage of vehicles on private property

Some Cities Require RV Permits

Cities that are primarily suburban in nature will prohibit any RV from parking overnight along city streets during late night hours. These hours often range from 12:00AM to 6:00AM, or similar time frame. However, cities will allow an RV to park along a street if the owner of that RV has obtained an, “RV Permit”.

For example, the City of Gardena, CA, under Chapter 10.60…

10.60.030 Parking prohibited – Exceptions. A. It is unlawful for a person to park or leave standing any recreational vehicle on any public street, park, square, avenue, alley or public way in the city between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. B. Exceptions. The prohibitions of this section do not apply to: 1. Recreational vehicles for which a RV permit has been issued and such permit is displayed and is valid; 2. Recreational vehicles for which a RV guest permit has been issued and such permit is displayed and is valid;

City of Gardena, Chapter 10.60 Regulation of the Parking of Recreational Vehicles

Sleeping in an RV is Illegal in Many Cities

Many cities are now banning people from sleeping in RVs as a way to reduce the number of motorhomes and trailers on city streets. This may also include residential properties and privately-owned lots. For example, the City of Hillsboro, OR, under 6.12.040…

A. No person may: 2. Live, sleep or reside in a recreational vehicle or trailer located on a lot or on a public street unless the street or lot is designated for overnight camping;

City of Hillsboro, 6.12.040 Recreational vehicles and trailers

So is Boondockers Welcome Legal or Not?

We believe that Boondockers Welcome is generally a safe bet on finding a legal place to spend the night in your RV, mainly because the company has taken steps to minimize the number of illegal sites on its marketplace. For example, they do not allow hosts to offer up public property, such as curb sides in front of a host’s house. Moreover, they don’t allow hosts to “rent” space for money, which will overcome ordinances and zoning laws against conducting business in a residential area.

But you’re still relying on the host to make sure they’ve done their due diligence in researching codes and ordinances in their city or county. The bottom line is that a law enforcement officer will cite you for breaking the law, and not the host.

Before deciding on a space listed on Boondockers Welcome, message the host and verify if he or she can assure you that their city or county does not have any laws that would make it illegal for you to sleep overnight in a vehicle, park an RV within city limits, or leave an RV illegally parked. Assuming they will tell you, “Yes it is legal”, you now have evidence to sue for the host for damages should law enforcement officers cite you with a violation.

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