If one thing is certain in life, it’s that rent always increases. Inflation is a core regulatory theme of our economy. This past year has made us all well aware of that concept. While most consumer goods are allowed to rise and fall as much as supply and demand require (looking at you, eggs!), housing costs can be regulated. Depending on the state or local municipality, certain laws are put into place that prevent landlords from extortionately raising their rents in a given time period. This rent control mainly serves a humanitarian purpose.
However, RV parks are normally exempt from these laws, leaving transitory residents at the will of the RV park. In most cases, dramatic price increases force residents to move on, even if they have nowhere else to go.
Here’s a look at the existing regulations and how some RVers across the United States have been affected.
Rent control laws can vary by jurisdiction
Most of our country functions on a state’s rights basis, allowing individual states to draft and enforce their own regulations. This is precisely the case with rent control. At this time, only 6 states across the United States allow for rent control—either on a state or county basis:
- Oregon: Oregon was the first to enact a statewide rent control law in 2019. Landlords are restricted to raising their rents no more than 7% plus inflation in a 12-month period.
- California: Along a similar vein, California restricts rent increases to 5% plus inflation.
- New York, Maryland, New Jersey, and Maine: These four states do not have a statewide rent control law in place. However, certain municipalities within the state are allowed to draft their own.
Proponents of rent control legislation deem it a necessary combatant to ever-increasing rent inflation. This is especially the case in a post-pandemic world where housing prices are at an all-time high. Critics, on the other hand, argue that rent control is an unnecessary oversight in a laissez-faire economic system. They believe that it can slow down improvements in housing quality.
Are RV parks covered by rent control?
It’s important to differentiate a mobile home from an RV park. In many states and counties that have rent control, certain amendments are made to incorporate mobile home developments. This is largely because the occupants own their homes, and simply lease the land. Additionally, mobile home parks often have longer-term leases, such as 6- and 12-month terms. This subjects them to traditional rent control laws.
RV parks do not fall under these typical categories. Even though many RV parks support long-term tenancy, it’s normally on a month-by-month basis. No contractual obligations are required beyond 30 days. While this is beneficial to a tenant from a transiency point of view, it can seriously bite them when it comes to rental increases. Since RV parks are not regulated by any established rent control laws, increases of up to 30% can be seen in some locations—particularly in areas that are already affected by housing crises.
While supply and demand may support these price hikes, it often leaves individuals in a situation where they have nowhere else to turn to. Many families have turned to stationary RV life (residing permanently in an RV park) to save money and afford housing where they otherwise couldn’t. If the parks become unaffordable, these people have zero options other than move to another town, city, or state.
A story from Rising River RV Resort
A quick search of the web will return countless results of RV park tenants expressing concerns regarding rent prices. Many of these tenants are either retired or disabled and live on a fixed income. For them, more expensive rent is simply not an option.
Most recently, multiple residents at Rising River RV Resort & River House in Green (near Roseburg), Oregon, entered a class action lawsuit against the new owners of their RV park. In October 2022, residents received a notice that their monthly rent would be increasing from $472 to $649 —a 37.5% increase. As discussed, Oregon rent control laws prohibit landlords from raising rents beyond a certain level (currently 14.6%).
Rising River RV Resort has been operating for more than 25 years, and some residents have lived there for as long as 15 years. In 2022, the park was purchased by Bluewater, and rents were effectively raised. According to a spokesperson for Bluewater, Rising River is a transient campground and not a mobile home park. Therefore, prices can fluctuate.
According to tenant law attorney Troy Pickard, however, rental legislation typically applies to anyone that has resided in a location for 30 or more days. An interesting legal battle between the park residents and the owners is expected to ensue in the coming months.
RV parks may be typically viewed as a campsite, used sparingly by weekend travelers and vacationers. For a segment of the population, these RV parks are home. As expressed by the residents at Rising River RV Resort, drastic price hikes can become an immense strain for those that are on fixed incomes, or for those that struggle to pay the bills to begin with.
For residents that live in states with rent control laws, battling these price hikes can be a losing battle. Unless local ordinances make alterations that accommodate RV parks, it’s unlikely that a park will ever be subjected to rent control. The result is permanent RVers who are forced to either take the financial hit, or move on to cheaper pastures and say goodbye to the place they may have called home for decades.
What’s better than rent control? A tax on vacant lots and unoccupied buildings. While rent control makes it less attractive to supply accommodation, a vacant-property tax makes it less attractive NOT to! Such a tax, although sometimes called a “vacancy tax”, is not limited to what real-estate agents call “vacancies” — that is, properties available for rent. It also applies to vacant lots and empty properties that are not on the rental market, and prompts the owners to get them occupied in order to avoid the tax.
Yes, a vacant-property tax is meant to be AVOIDED. It’s not meant to be paid. Better still, its avoidance would involve economic activity, expanding the bases of other taxes and allowing their rates to be reduced, so that everyone else—including tenants, home owners, and landlords with tenants—would pay LESS tax!
Don’t be surprised that private campground fees don’t go up this camping season. Property taxes are going up. Electric, water and sewer bills have been going up so campground owners will have to recoup more money to pay for them.
So many “RV parks” are actually trailer courts…mostly full-time residents…truly they are “mobile home” parks, They keep a couple of actual RV spaces available for travelers as a smokescreen to make it appear that they actually ARE an RV park for active travelers…probably to avoid zoning and permit hassles that would come into play if they were exposed for what they REALLY are- a fixed “mobile home” park.
The history of rent control is very damning as is that of all price controls. It’s simple: in the case of price caps, it discourages the production of more of whatever is in short supply because producers can’t recoup the true cost of that thing. That is as true for eggs as it for housing. There is simply no historical data that shows price caps ever help, but a vast amount that show shortages because of this policy (ie gas caps by the federal govt in the 70’s-anyone old enough will remember the long lines and long waits, if you could even find gas).
Be careful about rent controls! Having lived in a jurisdiction that had them in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the long-term unintended consequence is that developers stop building new units. Why build something when government is going to control it? We had extremely low vacancy rates for the next 30 years.
Don’t think RV parks will be any different.
Exactly. Price caps are about feelings and not about science. “I feel prices are too high and therefore they’re not fair”. That’s an emotional response and not a logical one. In reality, why would anyone risk their own resources knowing they won’t recoup their costs because government will interfere with the scientific process of supply and demand through capping the price process? Good luck debating with those who lead with their emotions and not science.