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RVIA, ARVC Educating Cities On Park Models

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August 20, 2014 by   Leave a Comment

                     The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) are working together to try to educate municipalities across the U.S about the property-tax-exempt status of park model RVs, according to an announcement from ARVC.

The two organizations are also collaborating in an effort to identify states where legislation can be developed specifically to exempt park models from property taxes. Such legislation became law in Utah last year, for example.

                                  “I personally talk to Jeff Sims of ARVC nearly every week,” said Matt Wald, RVIA’s executive director for park model RVs, adding that Dianne Farrell, RVIA’s vice president of government affairs, is also in regular communication with Sims on park-model and other campground issues.

Park models are technically defined as recreational vehicles according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A119.5 standard and a majority of states’ laws. This makes them exempt from property taxes. But the descriptions of park model RVs in the HUD code are not as clear as they could be and not every state clearly defines park models as a type of RV.

As a result, more often than not, local officials have no idea what park models are and usually think they are a form of manufacturing housing, which is not correct.

As a result, Sims and Wald spend a considerable amount of time on the phone each week with municipalities across the country that question whether park models should be subject to property taxes. ARVC maintains that park models should only be taxed as personal property.

In some cases, Sims said he provides park operators with talking points and code sections they can share with city officials to clarify their questions about park models. In others, Sims reaches out to city officials directly to inform them that park models are a type of RV.

Sometimes, however, private park operators bring problems on themselves when they fail to register their park models with their state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV). While they may think they are saving money by avoiding the DMV registration fee, the tactic can backfire on them later if local officials question whether their park model is indeed a type of vehicle and they do not have a DMV registration form to prove that it is.

Private park operators can also create problems for themselves and for the RV and outdoor hospitality industries in general if they allow people to live in park models on a permanent basis.

ARVC and RVIA support the use of park models as seasonal dwellings consistent with recreational vehicles. But when park models are used as permanent housing instead of recreational purposes, it can often raise flags for local taxing authorities who are more likely to want to tax these units as a permanent dwelling rather than an RV.

To help clear up this confusion, RVIA has spent the past eight years trying to persuade Congress to clarify the HUD code to more clearly define park models as a type of RV. But while the Manufactured Housing Institute has supported RVIA’s efforts, the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform has opposed changes to the HUD code to clarify that park models are, in fact, recreational vehicles.

Wald said RVIA is undeterred and will continue its efforts to clarify the language in the HUD code involving park model RVs so that the HUD law makes it perfectly clear to local zoning and tax officials that park models are indeed a type of RV, not housing, and should be treated as such. Several campgrounds and state campground associations have already helped advance this effort by contacting their senators and representatives, and more support from the campground industry will be required in the coming year to get the HUD law changed.

By clarifying both the HUD law and state laws regarding park models, the industry groups hope to eliminate the need to constantly explain what park models are and defend their use in private campgrounds.

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