Drivers looking to register a vehicle in New Hampshire must have a home – a “place of physical presence,” as the statute reads – in the state of New Hampshire.
“No exceptions,” said Sheri Kelloway, attorney for the state Division of Motor Vehicles.
According to a report in the Union Leader, Manchester, the requirement can cause problems for full-time RVers like Bob Howe, whose only year-round residence is hooked to the back of a Ford pickup.
“We at the DMV certainly appreciate people like Mr. Howe,” Kelloway said. “The problem is, the law is the law.”
Howe, who used to own a small high-tech manufacturing business in Londonderry, says he and his wife, Martha, had been living in New Hampshire since 1982. Upon retiring about five years ago, the couple sold their Nashua condo and headed out on the road in an RV.
Their dream, he said, was to live an “unscheduled life.”
“After all the years of hard work and long hours in our business, it felt like a well-deserved extended vacation,” said Howe, who is now 63.
Recently, the couple bought a Hyundai Sonata during a stay in Arizona. They tried to register the car in New Hampshire.
Everything went smoothly, Howe said, until the DMV representative who processed his request asked for his address. Howe could only provide the number of his post-office box.
“That’s when I said, ‘No, we’re full-time RVers. I don’t have a physical address. We move around not only all summer long, but all year long,'” Howe recalled.
“They said, ‘Oh. I wish you hadn’t told me that.'”
Ultimately, Howe did receive his plates after the Nashua city clerk’s office agreed to certify him as a city resident. The Division of Motor Vehicles, however, has been investigating his claim to residency, according to Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli, who has contacted the DMV on Howe’s behalf.
“It needs to be in the law that RVers are legitimate citizens,” Pignatelli said, “if they consider New Hampshire to be their home, if they vote here, if they have a record of having an address here.”
Rep. Susan Almy, D-Lebanon, introduced a bill last year that would have allowed RVers to re-register their vehicle in New Hampshire. It would have made a similar accommodation for homeless citizens who may be living in their car.
The state’s assistant safety commissioner, Earl Sweeney, opposed the bill, and the House Transportation Committee shelved it for further study. Almy said she plans to re-introduce the bill during the next session.
Sweeney said he recognizes that RVing is a popular pursuit among New Hampshire retirees. Hopefully, he said, the state can work out a sustainable resolution.
“We’re going to have to find a way to resolve it,” he said. “All states seem to be struggling with it. I’m sure when we all put our thinking caps on, there’s going to be some way around it.”