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RV Advocacy

In 1998, at the brink of Escapees 20th year anniversary, a new branch of service begins. Perhaps the most important role it would ever play springs to life. After a 20-year policy to remain non-religious and non-political, Escapees RV Club determines that if they don’t take the lead in protecting full-time RVers rights, no one would.

Current Advocacy Status:
Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations; Revision of Exemption for Recreational Vehicle

Advocacy Update: December 4, 2018

Recently, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a final rule exempting recreational vehicles from HUD’s regulation. (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-11-16/pdf/2018-24950.pdf ) We, Escapees RV Club, agree that HUD should not regulate the manufacture of RVs and commend HUD for creating this exemption.

However, imbedded within HUD’s exemption is the following definition of a recreational vehicle (Section 3282.15 (b)):

(1) A vehicle or vehicular structure not certified as a manufactured home;

(2) Designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy; …

We take issue with the highlighted language as it perpetuates the notion that RVs are not for full-time use. HUD has issued definitions of RVs, in previous versions of this exemption, which included some use-based language speaking to temporary use or precluding permanent dwelling. So, in a sense, very little has changed, substantively, in this new definition. However, we have seen instances where the HUD definitions of RVs have been adopted by other entities, in an attempt to control the use of RVs—the cause for our concern. Use-oriented language, has the potential to manifest in other federal, state, and local rules, regulations, and laws. And, it is difficult to foresee how those rules, regulations, and laws would impact the RVing community.

Lastly, it is important to note that HUD attempts to address this concern in the commentary to the rule, in the following “Comments” and “HUD Response.”

  1. General Misunderstanding of the Proposed Rule Comments: Commenters stated that the rule would prohibit full-time RV living. Other commenters stated that the rule implied that HUD would regulate consumer use of RVs. Commenters may have based this conclusion on the proposed definition of ‘‘recreational vehicle’’ that includes a criterion that a RV be designed only for recreational use. The commenters stated that the criterion would deter full-time RV and tiny home living while yielding no safety improvements. Many commenters stated that individuals have a right to housing choice, including where and how they live, so long as the housing they choose is safe and contains necessities…

HUD Response: HUD respectfully disagrees with the various fundamental premises and conclusions of these commenters about secondary effects. Initially, as stated in this preamble, HUD is not regulating use of manufactured homes or RVs. More specifically, how individuals decide to use their manufactured home or RV unit after purchase—and, in some cases, after receiving a Manufacturer’s Notice about the unit’s compliance with RV standards—is beyond the scope of this final rule. The regulation of use and occupancy of RVs is the purview of state and local authorities, not HUD.

We appreciate HUD’s clarification that they are not attempting to regulate use. We agree with HUD’s response that such matters are better left within the prevue of state and local authorities. We hope that if this definition is adopted by other entities, that those entities take note of the commentary language. Where and when we have the opportunity to participate in the shaping of rules, regulations, and laws that would seek to use the HUD definition, we will endeavor to note the commentaries, in hopes of protecting RVers’ rights to RV on their terms. Please know, we will continue to provide you with updates, as we have pertinent information to share.

Letter Sent to HUD:

Housing and Urban Development Department Proposed Rule 2016-02387:

Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations; Revision of Exemption for Recreational Vehicles

Escapees RV Club is a total support network for all RVers – people who live and travel in their recreational vehicles throughout the United States. These members include full-timers as well as weekend vacationers.

In the text of the proposed rule, HUD issues an invitation for commentary on questions HUD drafted. Below are our comments to selected HUD questions:

  1. As described in the preamble to this proposed rule, HUD has not exercised regulatory oversight over Fifth Wheel Recreational Vehicles that might meet the statutory and regulatory definitions of “manufactured home,” This proposed rule proposes to except Fifth Wheel Recreational Vehicles from regulatory oversight. Should HUD take a different approach and begin exercising regulatory oversight of these units that meet the statutory and regulatory definitions of “manufactured home?” What are the costs and benefits of bringing these units within HUD oversight? Should HUD exercise any regulatory authority over Fifth Wheelers or other forms of recreational vehicles?

HUD’s stated mission is “to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers.” However, as discussed below, the unintended result of HUD’s language (and, by extrapolation the HUD’s regulation of RVs), when incorporated into state/local laws, is to limit the use of RVs; and, thus, the unintended result is to prevent RV owners from buying RVs or harming RV owners ability to use an RV as a full-time or seasonal residence—in contravention to HUD’s goal of “bolstering the economy and protecting consumers.”

Further, HUD’s stated mission indicates that a goal of HUD is to “build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination… However, the HUD’s regulation of RVs would impede, through language limiting the usage of RVs, many RV owners from using their RVs in the manner they choose as a full-time or seasonal residence. This impacts those RV owners (senior citizens as well as younger mobile workers) from participating in their chosen community (and/or traveling freely without limits or deadlines)—there are many hundreds of thousands of RV owners residing in their RV full-time and seasonally. Moreover, HUD’s regulation (as evidenced by the language of the proposed language) would cause direct discrimination against RV owner’s ability to use their RVs as a full-time or seasonal residence. Therefore, HUD’s regulation of RVs could contravene HUD’s stated mission by discriminating against those RV owners who choose to reside in their RVs full-time or seasonally, and severely limits those RV owners from forming and participating in their chosen community.

Lastly, HUD’s regulation of RVs, including Fifth Wheelers, takes HUD away from the regulation of housing and into the regulation of vehicles—outside of HUD’s authority. It is important to note, that while RVs owners can use their RVs as a dwelling, RVs of all types are subject to state registration as vehicles, regardless of the amount of time the owner resides in the RV. This wide-spread, established state level regulation of RVs as vehicles, and not as housing, would necessarily change if HUD began regulating RVs. Executive Order  13132, Federalism, prohibits an agency from publishing any rule that has federalism implications if the rule either imposes substantial direct compliance costs on State and local governments or is not required by statute, or the rule preempts State law, unless the agency meets the consultation and funding requirements of section 6 of the Executive Order. HUD regulation of RV would substantially impact the definitions of RVs as vehicles and cause many state and federal agencies to modify or terminate their regulation of RVs as vehicles. Therefore, HUD should not move to regulate RVs of any type.

Escapees RV Club would like to suggest other changes that need to be considered.

The proposed rule impacts the full-time and seasonal-use Recreational Vehicle (RV) community by proscribing, and limiting, the usage of RVs to “only” for recreational use—precluding the use of RVs for full-time or seasonal use as a residence. This limitation from a Federal agency could supersede—due to historic interpretations of the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution—state or local laws or rules regarding aspects of the full-time or seasonal RV lifestyle including, but not limited to, domicile, voting, driver licenses, insurance, and banking. Even if the Supremacy Clause does not enable a federal agency’s rule to supersede state or local laws, it is important to note that many states incorporate the HUD language, verbatim, in the language of the state’s laws. The incorporation of HUD language into state laws could be used to limit the usage of RVs. Therefore, while HUD claims that, at this time, they are not attempting to regulate the usage of RVs, the unintended but potentially substantially damaging effect of the HUD language is a crippling limitation on the use of RVs.

The language of the proposed rule includes use-based language to define RVs, and distinguish RVs from manufactured homes. We will urge HUD to rewrite the proposed rule to clarify, in the text of the rule and its accompanying notes, that the HUD definition of an RV is for the purposes of exempting RVs from the manufacturing requirements of imposed upon manufactured homes. Moreover, we will request that the language of the proposed rule state the following:

Recreational vehicles are not subject to this part, part 3280. A recreational vehicle is a factory built vehicular structure designed only for any recreational use, including, but not limited to use 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.

Or in the alternative, the language should be modified as follows:

Recreational vehicles are not subject to this part, part 3280. A recreational vehicle is a factory built vehicular structure designed only for recreational use and not as a fixture upon the land for 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.

Other potential language for the proposed rule could include references to the intended use, in a manner that does not, implicate the duration the user dwells within the RV. For instance, the proposed rule could state:

Recreational vehicles are not subject to this part, part 3280. A recreational vehicle is a factory built vehicular structure designed to be registered with a State transportation agency as a vehicle, 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.

Or in the alternative, the language could include:

Recreational vehicles are not subject to this part, part 3280. A recreational vehicle is a factory built vehicular structure designed not to become a fixture upon the land subject to State and/or local property taxes, 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.

Escapees RV Club would like to thank you for the opportunity to provide comment on the proposed rule. If other information is needed or required, please feel free to call us.

Advocacy Notice Issued March 9, 2016

Dear Escapees Members,

We want to alert the membership of a proposed rule entitled “Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations; Revision of Exemption for Recreational Vehicle” published by the U.S. Department of Urban Affairs (HUD). We are making contact with all of the involved parties, financial institutions and HUD for more information on the proposed rule and will continue to monitor the process. For an overview of the issue, please read this joint statement from RVIA, RVDA and ARVC:  http://www.rvbusiness.com/2016/02/joint-statement-hud-move-critical-to-industry/

The complete proposed rule can be viewed at: https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-02387

In summary, this proposed rule would modify the current exemption for recreational vehicles in the Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations. Under the current exemption, questions have arisen regarding whether park model recreational vehicles are regulated by HUD’s manufactured home program. These park models are being produced with patio roofs, screened in porches, and other extensions that exceed the 400 square foot maximum exemption in the current regulations. Additionally, some of these models are being marketed as suitable for year round living.

HUD’s proposed rule would permit recreational vehicle manufactures to certify that a unit is exempted from HUD’s regulations. Specifically, HUD’s proposed rule would define a recreational vehicle as a factory build vehicular structure, not certified as a manufactured home, designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy, and built and certified in accordance with either the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1192-2015, Standard for Recreational Vehicles, or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A119.5-15, Recreational Park Trailer Standard.

In addition, to provide consumers notice regarding the manufacturing standards used to construct the unit, HUD’s rule would require that units claiming the exemption display a notice that identifies the standards used to construct the unit and states that the unit is designed only for recreational use, and not as a primary residence or permanent dwelling.

Escapees RV Club takes RV Advocacy very seriously and we will continue to keep you apprised. 

Be Informed

Many of our advocacy efforts and requests for action are communicated through our Club News e-newsletter. If you would like to receive this weekly update, which includes information on club events, new services and benefits and other announcements, in addition to advocacy information, please subscribe.

Current Advocacy Status:
Florida Department of State Advisory Opinion

Advocacy Update: July 26, 2018

In response to the recent Florida Department of State advisory opinion regarding the use of a mail forwarding service address for voter registration (http://dos.myflorida.com/media/699707/de1809.pdf), we, at Escapees, contacted the Sumter County Elections Supervisor, Bill Keen—as our mail service is located in Sumter County. Mr. Keen noted that the advisory opinion does not apply to the Escapees Florida mail service because our services are offered at a campground. The advisory opinion concludes that a person must be capable of residing at the address they use to register to vote. And, because a campground offers a person the ability to reside at that location, it may be used to register to vote. Mr. Keen was quick to note that a person seeking voter registration must still meet the other requirements, as required by Florida law: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0000-0099/0098/Sections/0098.045.html. We are grateful to Mr. Keen, and his staff, for their quick and thoughtful attention to this matter.

While the advisory opinion does not affect our services directly, we realize it does continue to impact some RVers. As part of our commitment to advocacy, we will endeavor to provide updates, if there are important developments that appear to impact the community at large.

For more information about domicile, please visit https://www.escapees.com/education/domicile/ or contact attorney Susie Adams, of Loring & Associates, PLLC, at 800-260-1615.

If you have questions about Escapees mail forwarding services, please visit https://www.escapees.com/mail-service/ or contact us at 936-327-8873 (domestic calls) or at 888-757-2582 (international calls.)

-Escapees RV Club

Advocacy Update: July 11, 2018

On June 19th, 2018, the Florida Department of State issued an advisory opinion (http://dos.myflorida.com/media/699707/de1809.pdf) in response to an inquiry which stemmed from the Supervisor of Elections in Clay County, Florida. The supervisor sought clarification on residency issues related to voter registrations, in particular, individuals using St. Brendan’s Isle Mail Forwarding Service (SBI), which caters to cruisers and RVers.

It appears from the advisory opinion that St. Brendan’s Isle is under scrutiny because some of its mail service members may have been using “1 Clay County” as their place of residence for voting purposes. The state declared that this address is not an “address of legal residence”. The state concluded that because the mail service is housed in a commercial building, it cannot be used for residential purposes.

While Escapees RV Club became aware of this issue a couple of weeks ago, we sensed that we would do more harm than good to SBI and their customers by disseminating this information to the public prematurely. Rather, we felt that SBI should have the opportunity to work with their local election supervisor to clarify and, hopefully, resolve this issue. Please know, we do not agree with some of the conclusions reached in this advisory opinion.

Consequently, we immediately began working behind the scenes to see how we might assist RVers who could potentially be affected by this advisory opinion. In addition, we contacted SBI directly because we know, better than most, the difficulties that full-time RVers undergo when trying to balance their freedom to travel with the state and federal requirements that dictate residency and domicile law. We are also pulling together our advocacy plan, which we intend to share with SBI. Moreover, we are waiting for SBI to share their advocacy plan with us, before we take any action (if needed) in Clay County. This planning requires formulating evidentiary case law that supports our position and then working our way through the legislative channels, if needed. However, we will keep our members posted when we have anything of value to report, or if this appears to affect our mail service members in any way.

For more information about domicile go to visit https://www.escapees.com/education/domicile/ or contact attorney Susie Adams, of Loring & Associates, PLLC, at 800-260-1615.

-Escapees RV Club

Advocacy Notice Issued July 6, 2018

Monitoring legislation, defeating detrimental laws, and educating city, county, state and federal officials about the amazing community of full-time RVers is a long-term commitment. It’s a commitment that Escapees has fulfilled for the past 40 years.

We first became aware of the Florida Department of State advisory opinion that affects RVers’ ability to use a mail service as their domicile, for voting purposes, about two weeks ago. Since receiving the advisory opinion, we have begun our own legal research into the claims asserted and the conclusions drawn in that opinion. Please be patient and know that we are working diligently to frame our position and to formulate a plan of action for this advocacy effort.

However, please know, we believe that no one should have to choose between their freedom to travel and their constitutional rights. We will never give up our efforts to ensure that the government, even in an earnest attempt to protect us, does not strip away the very liberties that make us a free nation. While we cannot fight every fight; and, we will not win every time we chose to fight. We will continue to vigorously defend RVers’ rights, where and when we can.

-Escapees RV Club

Escapees RV Club has many ways of addressing advocacy for all RVers

Past Advocacy Victories

Defending Full-Time RVers’ Right to Vote

Protecting full-time RVers’ right to vote was the most challenging, yet rewarding, advocacy role Escapees has achieved to date. It took two long years of courtroom battles that nearly landed on the steps of the Supreme Court, but in the end, 10,000 full-time RVers retained their right to vote.

Battling Unfair RV-Specific Taxes

While Escapees has been victorious in its many critical battles to protect the constitutional rights of RVers, an endless stream of laws and regulations continue to surface. A prime example is an ad valorem tax which significantly impacts travel trailer owners in Texas and other legislation across the states that target RVers unfairly.

Eliminating Discriminatory Driver License Regulations

While the average citizen takes a driver license for granted, full-time RVers can encounter unexpected obsticles when regulatory changes take place. Since driver licenses are commonly used as an acceptabe form of identification across the United States, laws regulating the issuance of a driver license are interconnected with other regulatory agencies and various legal componets can adversely affect full-time RVers unintentionally.

Battling Adverse Motor Vehicle Laws for Full-Time RVers

Great victories can be accomplished when RVers, dealers, manufacturers and associations work together toward a common goal. When it comes to legislative bills that affect motor vehicles across the nation, industry unity is key.

Special Attention Needed on Homeland Security

Terminology used in legislation and law can be unintentionally detrimental for full-time RVers. Escapees RV Club tries hard to monitor phrases like “legal residency,” “fixed dwellings,” “physical locations,” and these simple little words can have disasterous consequences.  

Protecting Overnight Parking Options

Protecting RVers’ right to park overnight in places other than commercial campgrounds has been a major advocacy focus for the past 20 years, and is ongoing still. To achieve an industry -accepted compromise between campground owners, consumers, and city/county/state regulations, Escapees created the “Good Neighbor Policy” which is now sanctioned by 35 RV clubs and industry organizations.

Defeating Discriminatory U.S.P.S. Mandates

When the United States Postal Service announced new regulations that  would require all incoming mail for customers using a mail-forwarding service use a new insignia “PMB” (which stands for “private mail box”) in addition to the requirement that the PMBs be written on a separate line (using a mandatory 4-line format), as well as other discriminatory regulations, Escapees quickly rallied support to rescind those stringent requirements.

Assisting With Satellite Services for Traveling RVers

Many full-time RVers depend on satellite TV to get their news and entertainment. FCC regulations are enacted that hamper RV and mobile customers. Escapees contacted the major satellite providers and special waivers are accepted with certain limitations.

Weighing in on Various Parks and Recreation Bills

Some bills are controversial in nature. Escapees RV Club is careful not to speak on behalf of its members unless there is a clear majority of support. In certain instances, reports are merely informational, in other cases, our voice is strong and clear.

Industry Coalitions Established to Safeguard RVers

No one should ever have to choose between living the RV lifestyle or giving up their civil liberties. Defending, protecting and securing legislation that preserves RVers’ rights is our ultimate aim. We also feel it beneficial to work with industry leaders to promote the well-being of RVers in general.

Help Us Protect RVers Rights

If you’d like to submit a topic or issue you think we should research, let us know!