Yes, you can! Except where you can't. It's a sticky wicket.

Michigan State Law Is Vague, But Some Townships Strictly Forbid It

The State Law concerning mobile homes, says that "travel trailers" and "camping trailers" are not to be used as permanent residences, but can be lived in on your property for short periods as emergency shelters.

So if you're doing a temporary camp out on some land you've bought out in the wild, you're absolutely fine, providing it's not more than a few months. After that, it may be up to local authorities.

State law also allows for local townships and governments to come up with their own ordinances as far as housing goes, so the best bet would be to check with your local community before living in an RV on your land for long periods of time.

The website RVParenting also says it might be a good idea to get any permission you're granted by local authorities in writing, so that it may be shown to authorities if your situation is called into question by neighbors or just nosy Karens in general.

Lu Hanson via Unsplash
Lu Hanson via Unsplash

A Case In Point: A Jackson County Man Who Thought He Had Permission

After medical issues and bills drove Robert Sharp out of his house, he was granted permission to live in a camper on some land he owned in Tomkins Township in 2019.

Sharp never got his permission in writing and was cited by the County for exceeding the eight-month limit for living in a camper. The County ordinance quoted says that after eight months of temporary living, a sewer and water system needed to be hooked up.

Sharp felt that others in his immediate vicinity were also living in RVs and campers, and felt he was being singled out.

Frankie Id via Unsplash
Frankie Id via Unsplash

'Stealth' RV Living Is Becoming More Common As Well

'Stealth' RV living is also becoming more common. This is when you park your RV in a parking lot or neighborhood and keep moving to avoid detection. You may have noticed this along Turner Avenue on the GR's West Side.

While it's well known that Walmart stores have no problem with RVs and campers parking overnight in their parking lot, it is still technically against the law, even if you are on their property with their permission.

'Boondocking' or dry camping on public land is generally allowed, but again, local laws apply. You're better off boondocking in rural areas, rather than cities in Michigan, according to Cruise America:

Boondocking is legal in many parts of Michigan, particularly in the sparsely populated upper peninsula. Michigan has plenty of wide-open spaces, but unlike some states out west, most of it is not government-owned, and there are more restrictions. Generally speaking, you can do dispersed camping on any state-owned land, except state parks, recreation areas, forests, and game areas. Fortunately, those state-owned areas are likely to have developed campsites available — though they probably won’t be free.

The state doesn’t put too many restrictions on parking lots either. While you should always be discreet, Michigan law allows for overnight parking at rest areas. A few cities also limit private businesses — like Walmart — from allowing it in their parking lots.

ToGo RV via Unsplash
ToGo RV via Unsplash

Always Remember, Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor: Be Cool

Boondockers Bible is quick to add that while Stealth Camping is largely illegal, if you're low-key and not causing problems, most authorities will look the other way.

  • Shade your windows to block out light – Use Reflectix (see it on Amazon) to block light from escaping from your windows. Turn off any unneeded lighting in your RV or vehicle. If police can’t see light, they will assume your vehicle is empty inside.
  • Don’t make loud noises – Keep your television or radio turned down low. Don’t throw a party inside your RV.
  • Don’t run your generator – A running generator obviously means that you’re inside your RV.
  • Keep your camping equipment put away – Don’t put out your chairs, tables, patio mat, and don’t
  • Don’t unhitch your trailer – Unhitched trailers are generally considered to be “stored” as opposed to “parked”. Street curbs are not allowed to be used to store vehicles.
  • Make sure there are no signs prohibiting parking – This should be obvious.
  • Use Industrial Parks and Business Parks – Police and parking enforcement put more of their efforts in neighborhoods, retail centers, and tourist areas. Meanwhile, industrial parks and business parks are less of a problem due to so many trucks moving in and out of those areas.

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