temporary motor home housing during remodel
September 22, 2014 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Does anybody have experience living in a RV (motorhome, trailer, etc) during a home remodel? My brother is planning some construction next month and thought that living in some temporary housing in the driveway may be a viable alternative to a hotel stay for a month or so. I would love some direction on how to look for this type of rental. Bonus points if you know somebody in Seattle that provides this type of service. thank you!
posted by jimmereeno to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is oftentimes illegal in urban areas. My neighbors started housing people in a trailers (for poverty reasons, not for construction reasons), and code enforcement shut it down in less than a couple weeks.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:38 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

The two companies I know of that do RV rentals nationwide are Cruise America and El Monte RV. I've never rented an RV and thus have never used either company. There may also be someone local to Seattle who rents RVs.

Compare the pricing with that of a hotel. If it compares favorably, check your local laws to see if it's OK to do this. If it's not an option to park in the driveway, I understand that most Wal-Mart locations allow RV campers to park in their parking lots, or perhaps he could find a cheap RV campground nearby.
posted by tckma at 12:43 PM on September 22, 2014

One consideration is that the construction may require use of the driveway, for instance for a portable trash bin.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 1:30 PM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Not trying to argue with other commenters but I'm not sure the situation furnace.heart mentions is applicable. The friend would be parking an RV on his own property (assuming it's in his driveway and not on the street which could be an issue) and then spending time in it. How would the city regulators even know he was living in it unless there was some sort of traffic/sidewalk hazard?

My husband and I talked about doing this when we were considering a remodel. We have the style of camper that rides on the back of a pickup. It's big for what it is but I think it would be too small for even one of us for more than a few weeks. A cab over style would provide more room though. I'd be thinking about how much access to the house I'd have. Could I get to my workroom? Kitchen? What does your friend do in his down time? If it's just video games or surfing, that could easily be done in the camper. I'd miss my sewing room. And my full sized kitchen. But alternatively, staying in a hotel and eating out for a month would be a drag for me. Even the tiny galley kitchen in our camper is preferable.

And re: parking at Wal-Mart, they don't seem to allow this much any more (at least the ones we've tried over the last couple of years. And if they do allow it, it's only for single overnights at most.
posted by Beti at 1:41 PM on September 22, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you for the thoughtful insights so far.

We'll definitely look into the city codes and dumpster needs... but he would still love some thoughts on how best to actually *find* a trailer/camper to gauge whether or not it provides a palatable living situation. (The vague hope is to still have daytime access to much of the house and use the trailer for sleeping). I'm betting that there's a great chance that once he actually steps foot inside a trailer, he'll book the hotel room.

I know that I've seen a lot of (seemingly) unused RVs parked in driveways over the years. Do you think he could rent one from an individual for a month? Perhaps that's a task for craigslist. Thoughts?

Thanks again for the insights. I'm still watching this thread eagerly.
posted by jimmereeno at 2:05 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Of COURSE! Put an ad on Craigslist and up on the bulletin boards in your office. There are lots of people who own Trailers/RVs and since summer is over they'd love to pick up a few extra bucks renting theirs out.

Another thought is to call to an RV dealership and see if they'd rent one of their used models to your brother for a month or so. It's not like they're going to sell any of them just now, and they can make a few bucks. The other positive is that if he's sleeping on the premises, he can keep an eye and ear peeled for thieves in the night.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:09 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's one thing to go RV camping for a week or so, but living in it for a month or two has it's own problems: there's the rental cost, of course; and don't assume the construction will be done in a month --- construction always seems to take much longer than it's quoted to take! How about power: don't you usually plug them in at campgrounds? Ditto for the water supply and refilling tanks. Sure, you'll saw you can hook it up from the driveway to the house's water and power, but what if the construction requires the house systems to be shut off? If you're going to do this, will the RV be warm enough for winter living or cool enough for summer?

And the biggie: where will you pump out the sewage tanks?
posted by easily confused at 2:27 PM on September 22, 2014

And the biggie: where will you pump out the sewage tanks?

If the house is going to be torn up enough that you can't live there, there will probably be a porta-potty set up for the construction crew that will have a truck come by regularly to empty it. You can probably empty the septic system from the RV into the porta-potty tank the night before (just be sure whoever is doing the provisioning is aware of this plan and builds in extra capacity when they order the job site toilets.)

Alternately, you might be able to empty right into the city sewer or septic system if there's a conveniently placed cleanout or other access.
posted by contraption at 3:33 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

You want to look for a company that does on-site temporary housing. These people specialize in providing temporary living quarters to people that are having major work done to their home. They will be able to sort out the permitting and utility situation. The trailers that they provide are better equipped for living in than a camping trailer. If you know someone in the homeowner's insurance business, they may be able to provide a recommendation. Often times, they arrange for these trailers for their customers after a major loss.
posted by Talk To Me Goose at 5:04 PM on September 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Most RVs are not 4 season, meaning the water lines and waste tanks would freeze in low temperatures. That's one reason full time RVers mostly head south for the winter. Since Seattle sees freezing temps, he'd need an RV that's insulated for winter, unless he's just sleeping in it, and not using the bathroom.

I wouldn't assume that because it's his driveway, that's it's legal to sleep in a vehicle parked in it. In many towns it's not. As to how city officials would even know, well the neighbors would know, and police driving by would see lights on. Oh, and as to emptying waste tanks in a port-a-potty, I'm curious as to how exactly that would be accomplished?
posted by PaulBGoode at 6:25 PM on September 22, 2014

I'm betting that there's a great chance that once he actually steps foot inside a trailer, he'll book the hotel room

It's not difficult to just look at the inside of random RVs, go to an RV dealership and they will be happy to let you set foot inside.

Some towns forbid sleeping in vehicles even if they are in your own driveway, sometimes this is a zoning violation, sometimes a criminal one. How will the city officials know? He's having construction done -- there WILL be city officials doing inspections -- it WILL be obvious to them that someone is living in the RV instead of the house. They might or might not turn a blind eye to it, ask around locally. Even if it's not usually a problem it might become one if the neighbors complain, you'd want to find out what the penalties are.
posted by yohko at 7:02 PM on September 22, 2014

As someone who has lived in a three-season camper during winter, here is my advice:

1) Get a heated mattress pad. MUCH easier to stay warm in bed at night than trying to heat the whole camper. Hang a blanket around your bed forming a little tent and you might even end up being TOO warm.

2) Leave your water running at a trickle, and keep at least a gallon of water stored in your warm bed nest in case your water system freezes anyway.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:49 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mrs. ikahime and I have been considering our options for next year's house-building project since our current house is right on the footprint where we want to build. RV was one option, but some other viable options are buying a yurt or fancy wall-tent, or adding a studio apt onto our garage that once the new house was built could be used as guest accommodations. Would either of those options work for your brother?
posted by ikahime at 7:59 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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