Bill Garpow

Bill Garpow

Park operators must not allow their recreational park trailers or ”park models” to be used as full-time residences. And they should also beware of the low-cost FEMA trailers, many of which have damage and mold problems in addition to failing to comply with established building codes.

Those were the two primary warnings issued Jan. 13 by Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), during CalARVC’s Education Day at Newport Dunes Waterfront RV Resort and Marina.

While Garpow had previously warned park operators not to allow their guests to use park trailers as full-time residences, he said the reminder is needed because the economic downturn has prompted some people who have lost their homes to relocate to campgrounds and RV parks — at least temporarily.

”The problem with it is that, in many cases, the local unit of government is aware of the hardship that is going on with regard to families and foreclosures and, as such, they may be inclined to ignore the improper use of a campground as a place of residence,” Garpow said.

Trouble is, when guests are allowed to establish a residence within a park, it can be very difficult to remove them. ”You’re setting yourself up to become a trailer camp if you allow people to live full-time at your park,” Garpow said.

Using RV or park model sites for full-time residents can also reduce the value of the park, while making it less appealing to transient RVers or destination campers looking for a true recreational vacation experience, Garpow said.

While long-term renters seeking a form of low-cost housing provide income stability, they don’t mix with transient travelers or participants in the RV lifestyle, Garpow said. Sometimes, he added, long-term renters can ”develop an attitude” toward visitors who are just passing through. This changes the very nature of the park and the true RV customers may seek another location.

”The only way I would even consider allowing full-time residency within a park would be if you worked with your city or county and had them pass an emergency housing ordinance that allowed you to use your park for this purpose,” Garpow said. ”But even then it should only be for a limited amount of time so that the local unit of government could also step in and help you move those people out after the housing emergency was over. I would also try to separate the two types of tenants, as they just don’t mix well.”