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Have you ever seriously thought about living in your van or campervan? I don’t mean just using it for the occasional holiday or trip up to the north of Scotland, but calling it your home forever?
It’s not the kind of lifestyle the average person chooses. But there are more and more people choosing the nomadic lifestyle. However, it would help if you genuinely enjoyed spending all your time in your motorhome.
If you’re thinking about this, but are unsure of the legalities of living in a van full-time, this article will answer your questions.
The idea of living in your van might seem appealing. You can travel in the comfort of your own home, park next to breathtaking views, and wake up eager to discover some of the UK’s most scenic and out-of-the-way places.
When it comes to overnight parking and whether it’s legal to spend the night in your van in the UK, the situation is not entirely clear. The application of local or national laws may vary depending on factors like:
- Will you be parking on public or private land?
- Are you in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland?
- Is there a danger you are causing an obstruction?
- Are you littering or behaving in an antisocial manner?
- What is the local landowner’s attitude to overnight parking?
- Can you get away without being seen?
Is it Legal to Live in a Van in the UK?
Yes, you can permanently occupy a motorhome, campervan, or van in the UK. The only prerequisite is that your car has passed its MOT and is entirely legal for the road.
Depending on where you go, there might be limitations on where you can park and live, so do your research beforehand.
The allure of living in a motorhome is the ability to travel with your home, but this does not allow you to set up camp anywhere.
For instance, local governments in the UK and other parts of Europe may have rules governing when it is acceptable to park in a street or layby overnight. Additionally, doing so might not be safe for you or your vehicle. Consult The Highway Code guide if you’re unsure where you can and cannot park (especially at night).
Local governments have placed restrictions on specific parking lots, lay-bys, and national parks/forests, making it unlawful to camp there. It’s best to move on if you find yourself parking for the night in one of these locations, because there are usually clear signs indicating these restrictions.
Can You Live in a Campervan on the Street?
No specific law forbids motorhomes from being parked along the side of the road. But the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and the Caravan Sites & Control of Development Act cover areas where you can park and a new offence of obstructing a highway.
While the PCSC law doesn’t specifically mention parking in a van on the highway, they have written the law so vague that the police could use it to make you move and even confiscate your vehicle.
However, with local governments taking control of highways, it doesn’t mean a police knock won’t awaken you at your door (this includes laybys).
No law explicitly prevents you from parking on the street. Still, simultaneously you have no “right” to park any vehicle on the road, so if the police decide to move you, you have little choice but to find a new spot.
Can You Live in a Van in the City?
Yes, if you’re discreet, it’s possible. Some people spend several years living in a van in cities around the UK, especially London. There’s also the possibility of getting to know a sizable community already doing the same.
You’ll soon be able to see where and how long you can stay. There are locations where you can stay overnight, providing you arrive later in the day and leave early in the morning before the area gets busy.
Use the showers at the cheapest gym you can afford to join. You can spend a few days here and there at campsites to charge your batteries, empty your toilet, and do your laundry if your van is in good enough condition.
Van Life Laws in the UK
As of April 2022, wild camping is prohibited everywhere you go in the UK without the landowner’s express permission. As we discussed earlier in the article, police powers to deal with illegal encampments that “cause damage, disruption, or distress”, even if that’s not what you’re doing, has been strengthened thanks to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.
This new Act of Parliament includes new arrest and vehicle seizure powers. Without first obtaining the landowner’s consent, it’s almost impossible to park overnight in a van.