Recreational Vehicle Question and Answer with Attorney Mark Busch

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An owner of a mobile home park allows RVs to stay in spaces within his mobile home park. He has them sign an RV nonresident agreement which states that they are not residents and they sign a set of rules and regulations that are different from what the mobile home residents sign. Over the weekend the landlord called the sheriff to evict one of the RVs that had fallen behind in their rent. The sheriff refused to evict the RV as a squatter for trespassing and told the landlord that the RV tenant does, in fact, have certain tenant rights under the Oregon Residential Landlord Tenant Act. The landlord obviously disagrees believing that the RV is transient and since they have fallen behind in their rent, they are a squatter and should be immediately removed from the property for trespassing. How does the landlord deal with this? Does the RV resident have tenant rights even though it is an RV and they signed an RV agreement? How should the landlord proceed with an eviction since the sheriff will not remove the RV? Can the landlord turn off the utilities to the RV?

Answer:

The last thing the landlord should do is turn off utilities to the RV. Under Oregon law, RV residents do qualify as “tenants,” although they are not entitled to the same rights as manufactured housing tenants. Turning off utilities would be an “unlawful ouster,” potentially subjecting the landlord to statutory damages of up to two months’ rent, plus attorney fees.

The sheriff was also correct in not removing the RV tenant. Since even RV residents are “tenants,” the landlord must follow the proper eviction procedures.
In this case, the first step would be to issue a 72-hour notice for nonpayment of rent to the RV tenant. If the tenant did not cure the nonpayment within the notice period, the landlord could then file an eviction lawsuit at the county courthouse. Each courthouse has simple check-the-box forms that make it easy for landlords to file an eviction (although if unfamiliar with the process, I always recommend consulting legal counsel).

In this circumstance, I would also recommend simultaneously issuing a 30-day, no-cause eviction notice to the RV tenant (although a 60-day notice is required if the tenant has been there for more than a year). That way, even if the tenant cures the rent nonpayment, the landlord can still file an eviction case after the 30-day notice expires.

There is one exception that might apply to an RV tenant in some circumstances. Namely, it is possible to not create a “tenant” if the landlord uses the right kind of agreement. The law allows a landlord to avoid the Oregon Residential Landlord Tenant Act if a “vacation occupancy” exists. This occurs when the landlord’s agreement specifies:

(1) The occupant rents the space for vacation purposes only, not as a principal residence;
(2) the occupant has a principal residence other than at the unit; and, (
3) the period of authorized occupancy does not exceed 45 days. In such a case, the sheriff would be authorized to summarily remove the RV occupant. However, the landlord must carefully comply with the vacation occupancy requirements to ensure that the RV occupant cannot argue he or she is a “tenant.”