Is it Legal to Live in an RV in Montana?
Short answer, yes. Long answer... probably not.
We choose to live in Montana for a number of great reasons. Lifestyle, culture, outdoors, family, etc. But most of us don't say "I live here because the wages in Montana are so awesome." Because they're not. IncomebyZipcode.com calculated the median household income in Montana is about $56,000 per year. The average household income is about $76,000 and per capita income is around $32,000 a year. Less than 5% of Montana households are considered "high income" earning over $200,000 per year.
If you're not in that 5% category, it's getting increasingly difficult to find a place to live that doesn't cost a fortune. Some people camp for fun, while others may be considering an RV as a permanent, full-time residence.
Do your research first.
Before you decide to sell most of your worldly possessions and downsize for camper life, please do your research. Finding a place where you can park your RV or camper year-round can be challenging. Most of the developed lots that allow long-term camping are already snapped up.
"Fine!", you say, "I'll just buy a couple of acres somewhere and park my RV! Problem solved!" Not so fast.
Pesky zoning laws will probably say you can't.
There are no state laws that specifically declare you cannot park and live in your RV year-round on your own private property. If you'd care to dig through the Montana Code Annotated 2021, it's HERE in its entire, not-easy-to-search glory. The law does, however, give municipalities and counties the ability to create zoning restrictions, and almost every subdivision - even rural areas - has some type of covenants, codes, and restrictions.
Before you buy Montana property to permanently "camp" on, always do this first.
Ask your Realtor for a copy of the covenants, codes, and restrictions, and examine the documents very carefully. Almost all the CCRs will have a paragraph or two about RVs or campers on the property. Some allow you to live in the RV while constructing a permanent home on the land (usually with a time limit) while most of them do not allow the permanent use of campers as a primary home.
Unzoned property with no restrictions does exist.
These land parcels are typically sold in larger tracts, such as farms or ranchland. If you can afford to buy 180+ acres in Montana, then you can probably afford to not live in an RV in the first place.
Inside city limits? Forget about it.
Finding a place to park your camper and live in it year-round inside city limits is likely illegal in every town in Montana with more than a couple hundred residents. I don't have time to look up the code for each metro area but here are the rules for the City of Billings:
- Snowmobiles, boats, or other recreational vehicles and campers, camper trailers, or motor homes must be parked in a rear yard unless the rear yard is inaccessible.
- Campers or RVs stored on residential property may not be used for living or sleeping purposes for more than five consecutive days.
Other set-back rules also apply. Here's a great business idea for you... find some investors and open a 200-space, full-service RV park within 20 miles or so of Billings. You'll make a fortune.
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