Can you legally live in a motorhome in Spain?

by Lorraine Williamson
living in a motorhome

MADRID – More and more people are choosing to live in a motorhome or caravan. But is it possible and legal to live this way in Spain? In this article, we will answer these questions and more. 

Living and living in a motorhome is certainly possible, although it is not always easy. As with everything, there are pros and cons here too. First of all, there are some questions people who live in a motorhome get all the time. Then we will tell you more about the legal issues you may encounter. 

What about showers, clothes, electricity and water? 

Of course, you have to be more creative in a motorhome than in a traditional house. Showers, for example. You can either have a shower in the RV or you can use public showers in swimming pools or sports centres. As for your clothes, self-service launderettes make doing laundry easy. For electricity, there is nothing better than a second battery and solar panels. And for water, you can use jerry cans and water tanks that you can refill at public sources.

How do you deal with cold and heat? 

Living in a motorhome or caravan means you are more exposed to the weather. Ok, you don’t get wet when it rains, but you are more vulnerable to cold and heat. Fortunately, there are solutions for everything. When it’s cold, there are classic tips such as wearing thermal underwear or using a hot water bottle. You can also opt for more modern solutions, such as a heater. With a small investment (compared to a traditional house) you can be nice and warm inside, even if a storm is raging outside. 

Heat, however, is more difficult to combat in a camper or van. The most effective solution is to look for a lot of shade. And living in a mobile home has the advantage of being able to go to the mountains or drive to the north of Spain for cooler temperatures. Unless you are tied to a place for work, of course. Mobile air conditioners are also available. 

Living in such a small space has obvious drawbacks. If you put comfort above all else, a motorhome or caravan to live in is probably not for you. Living this way can be a daily challenge and adventure, which you have to be open to. 

Is it legal to live in an RV? 

So it is possible to live in a motorhome, but is it legal? The first option available in this regard is to register in a motorhome, van or caravan and make it your official home address. But that’s not easy. Legislation on this subject has largely been transferred to the autonomous regions and municipalities. While they all follow more or less the same main guidelines, the details may vary from one region to another. 

Habitability certificate 

If you have your piece of land and park your camper there continuously, it is very difficult to get a certificate of registration from the municipality without a certificate of habitability. And if an annoying neighbour turns you in, you will even be fined for living somewhere without the required habitability certificate (cédula de habitabilidad). 

Register at a campsite? 

Another option is to move to a campsite and live there with your camper or caravan. Although you rent a plot, all autonomous communities in Spain set a maximum time per year that you can spend on a campsite. This varies from 6 to 11 months per year. Although the number of months may vary, the idea is clear: you cannot live permanently on a campsite and register there. 

“Homeless” solution 

Ultimately, there is only one option to be able to officially live in a camper, caravan or van. Since 2015, there is a regulation (updated in the BOE 122 of May 2, 2020) which opens for the first time in Spain the possibility of registering in a vehicle. However, you must meet several requirements for this. 

Point 3.3 of this regulation concerns the registration of persons without accommodation. As mentioned earlier, the population register must show the actual address where each resident of the municipality lives. This is independent of legal private disputes about property ownership, physical, hygienic, health or other conditions that affect the accommodation. Therefore, substandard dwellings (shacks, caravans, caves, even completely homeless) can and must be validly registered in the population register. 

In other words, a caravan or motorhome can be considered a home, but you are officially living in a ‘substandard home’. In this case, the regulations also state that the Social Service is responsible for allowing registration in your vehicle. 

Also read: What should you know before travelling through Spain with your motorhome? 

Cogesa Expats

For example, a requirement is that you live permanently at that location. Although not clearly stated in the regulations, it can be assumed that the vehicle you live in should not be mobile. In other words, while your RV can be moved, it should be in the same spot most of the time. Moreover, it should not be your primary means of transportation. 

It is clear that officially registering and having a legal address in a residential vehicle is not easy, but not completely impossible either. Still, if you fail, you can always fall back on the next option. 

Nomadic life 

You can also start living nomadic, without pinning yourself down to one specific place. If you don’t settle in one place, you reduce the likelihood of problems with the authorities. The advantage is that you can travel and live wherever you want, without too many obligations. The only limitations are the ones you impose on yourself, such as climatic conditions, for example. 

If you have a good mobile internet connection, you can do any type of work remotely from anywhere in the world. The advantage of always being on the go is that authorities treat you like an ordinary traveller. 

On the other hand, if you plan on staying in one place for extended periods, you have two options: either change sleeping places every three or four days or try to find a place where you won’t attract attention and “don’t cause a nuisance” for others. By being discreet, you can probably stay in the same place longer without too much trouble. 

And what about doctor visits, taxes and mail? 

If you live in a fixed location with your vehicle and manage to register, you probably won’t have any problems with things like a GP, administrative notices and receiving mail. But what about if you live nomadically? 

Fortunately, in this information society we are less and less dependent on a physical address. For example, to receive packages from online purchases, we can usually use a nearby collection point, such as an Amazon Locker or a post office. No address or registration is required for this. 

A digital certificate is becoming increasingly important to avoid physical travel for most administrative tasks. When it comes to banking, you can bank online at almost all banks, so you never have to receive letters. As for government services, it is the same. By law, everyone has the right to communicate electronically with the government (Laws 39/40/2015), so there is no need to have an address to receive notices. 

Address of family member or friend 

Nevertheless, for exceptional cases where an address is required, such as having a GP or opening a bank account, it is useful to have the address of a relative or close friend where you can register. That way you have your back covered for those occasions. 

If you plan to be on the road all the time and visit different places, it might also be worth considering annual travel insurance. The advantages are that you do not need a permanent address to see a doctor and that you can also be treated via teleconsultation. 

Whether you choose to live in a motorhome or caravan, it is important to be aware of the challenges and possible legal aspects. While it is possible to live this way, you should always check the specific rules and regulations of the regions and municipalities you are going to. But with the right preparation and flexibility, living in a motorhome or caravan can be an exciting adventure full of freedom and new experiences. 

Also read: Living in a camper because the rent can no longer be paid 

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