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A Joint Statement from RVIA, RVDA and ARVC: Why HUD’s Proposed Rule Redefining RVs is Critical to the RV Industry and RV Enthusiasts

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced a proposed rule that redefines the RV exemption from manufactured housing standards. This announcement and the proposed rule itself are great news for the RV industry and RV enthusiasts.

That’s because this proposed rule provides a critical solution to the regulatory uncertainty that has plagued RV manufacturers, dealers and campgrounds for decades. Without it, the entire RV lifestyle could be regulated out of existence. With it, RV manufacturers, dealers, campgrounds and RV owners get regulatory certainty that the RV lifestyle will remain the most attractive way to recreate in America.

To understand why this proposed rule is so critical, start by picturing in your mind a transportable structure which is three hundred twenty or more square feet, built on a permanent chassis and includes plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and electrical systems.

What are you picturing?  Is it a travel trailer? A fifth-wheel trailer?

Actually, that is the federal housing law’s definition of a manufactured home. And manufactured homes are required to be built to comprehensive housing standards set by HUD.

But the confusion is understandable. After all, manufactured housing and RVs share common DNA: they are both descendants of the so-called ‘mobile homes’ of the 1960s and 1970s. But starting in the mid-1970s the two products evolved along different paths. Manufactured housing became larger and more like a stick-built house. RVs became more mobile and more like a vehicle than a house. 

So, given the language of the HUD law, why are travel trailers, fifth-wheels and park model RVs not required to be built to HUD’s housing standards (motorhomes, by the way, are not part of this discussion because they are specifically exempted from HUD regulation in the HUD law)?

The simple answer is because, due to the distinct evolutionary paths of the products, in 1982 RVs were specifically exempted from manufactured housing standards so long as they meet HUD’s definition of an RV which has been:

A recreational vehicle is a vehicle which is:

(1) Built on a single chassis;

(2) 400 Square feet or less when measured at the largest horizontal projections;

(3) Self-propelled or permanently towable by a light duty truck; and

(4) Designed primarily not for use as a permanent dwelling but as temporary living quarters for recreational, camping, travel, or seasonal use.

The fundamental difference between manufactured housing and RVs was, is and always will be their design intent: RVs are designed for recreational, camping, travel or seasonal use. Manufactured homes are designed to be permanent dwellings. This was the case in 1982, it is the case today and it will be the case in the future.

But as RVs continued to evolve down the vehicle path, the 1982 definition RVs became less clear and eventually unworkable.  Undefined terms such as “towable by a light duty truck,” and other technical issues around size limits given the advent of RV slide-out rooms were problematic for the industry, for regulators, and for consumers.  Meanwhile, the RV industry implemented a stringent standards, inspection and self-certification process around the NFPA 1192 standard for RVs and ANSI A119.5 for Park Model RVs.

To respond to the inapplicability of the 1982 definition to modern RVs, RV manufacturers, dealers and campgrounds put their heads together with the manufactured housing industry to propose new language to clarify that modern RVs are not manufactured homes.  All parties agreed that RVs should be built in accordance with NFPA and ANSI RV standards, not HUD manufactured home standards. All parties agreed that the key distinction continues to be that manufactured homes are designed and built for permanent residency while RVs are designed and built to be used by families as a recreational, camping, or seasonal accommodation.

Eventually an advisory panel to HUD came up with a consensus proposal to define and exempt RVs from manufactured housing standards based on the objective fact that they are built to the standards for RVs:

A recreational vehicle is a factory built vehicular structure designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy, built and certified in accordance with NFPA 1192–15 or ANSI A119.5–09 consensus standards for recreational vehicles and not certified as a manufactured home.

In the newly proposed rule, HUD accepted this consensus proposal with the additional requirement that park model RVs contain a consumer-facing notice that the manufacturer certifies that the structure is a recreational vehicle designed only for recreational use. The RVIA PMRV seal applied to every PMRV already contains this notice, so it is not an additional burden to industry. 

So this proposed rule gives RV manufacturers the critical regulatory clarity and certainty they have long sought:  so long as they build to the nationally-recognized RV standards, the modern RVs they are building do not and will not fall under HUD’s jurisdiction.

The proposed rule gives RV dealers additional critical regulatory clarity they have long sought: the proper paperwork, forms, and disclosures the RV dealer needs to provide during a sales transaction are based on the design intent of the recreational vehicle.

The proposed rule also gives RV campgrounds the critical regulatory clarity and certainty that they have long sought: in many cases the business license for RV parks and campgrounds only allows them to accommodate recreational vehicles, not manufactured homes, so under the proposed rule they would be able to accommodate any unit that is certified to an RV standard without running afoul of local regulations.

Under this proposed rule, the modern RV lifestyle cannot be regulated out of existence. Great news for anyone involved with it.

But what else does this mean for RV owners specifically?

From the consumer’s day-to-day perspective the proposed rule changes nothing. HUD sets standards and regulates what happens to manufactured housing. This regulation makes it perfectly clear that RVs designed as RVs and built to modern RV standards are, in fact, RVs.

The laws and regulations governing the use of RVs are set at the state and especially at the local municipal and county levels, not by HUD. So the new rule does not affect full-time recreational RVing in any way.

At the same time, localities that set 6, 8, 10 or 12-month limits for an RV stay in a campground will continue to have those regulations. Finally, although RVs have always been specifically designed for recreational purposes, some states and localities do nevertheless permit people to live in RVs as a permanent residence and will continue to do so. HUD’s proposed rule will not change that.

Anyone who cares about RVing and the RV lifestyle should be rejoicing at the publication of this proposed rule and advocating for its adoption as proposed. It will keep our RVs rolling for the foreseeable future. 


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