As full-timers, the Murphys spend their time in state parks and other locations, and have no fixed, permanent address. This creates a situation that Bob described in a letter to RV Life:
“It all began about five years ago, when the wife and I retired. Having been weekend warriors in the RV world for many years, we decided to continue as full-timers. We also decided that unlike many full-timers who changed their residency (actually or virtually) that we’d stick with our home state of 40 years—Washington.
“All went well the first two years. A few trips here and there. Then we started camp hosting at both Washington and Oregon state parks—and lovin’ it.
“While at a park near Port Townsend in the beginning of our third year, our driver’s licenses both became due for renewal. Wife went first in January with no problem. The DOL (Department of Licensing) accepted our personal mailbox as our residence. Of course, we had no other. In August, it became my turn. So off I go to the same DOL office in Port Townsend. Same place—different clerk.
“Clerk sez, ‘No way is the mailbox address acceptable on the license. I can’t renew your license unless you have a current and real address…It needs to be dirt, a street address, a rental, a place you really live at.’”
Murphy said he told the clerk: “But I really live in my RV.”
“Not good enough,” she replied.
Murphy protested that his wife had just gotten a driver’s license using their mailbox address. A mistake, replied the clerk. What could he do? The clerk suggested using a relative’s address. Murphy argued to no avail that he didn’t live with a relative. But to get his driver’s license, Murphy grudgingly put down his daughter’s address in Tenino, Washington.
That’s created a problem, Murphy said, because now his driver’s license has one address and his bank checks have another, making the checks difficult to cash.
One More Try
Murphy said he went to the DOL headquarters in Olympia late last year to try again to renew his driver’s license with only his mailbox address, but was rebuffed again. When the clerk suggested using a relative’s address, Murphy pointed out that if he did, he would be violating the state law against supplying false information to get a driver’s license. “It’s a Catch-22,” he told the clerk. Her reply was a blank stare.
Fortunately, the Murphys don’t need to renew their licenses until 2007 so they have some time to figure out what to do.
One option is to renew with their daughter’s address, which will work as long as she keeps living in Washington. That’s what a spokesman for the DOL suggested when I posed the problem to him. When I pointed out that the Murphys would be claiming an address where they don’t live, he simply noted that nobody would be investigating that fact.
Another option for the Murphys is to do what many other full-time RVers do and make it look like their mailbox number is an apartment number. That’s the approach suggested by Jane Kenny in her book RV Retirement. She notes that most states require a physical address as your domicile if you want to get a driver’s license, register a vehicle or register to vote. But, she said, you can meet this requirement by using the street address of a mailbox/mail forwarding service, and hiding the fact that it’s just a mailbox number. For Box 113, for example, list it simply as #113, or even as Apt. 113.
In addition to the driver’s license problem, the next time the Murphys register a vehicle in Washington, they will be required to provide a residential street address, not the mailbox address they have used in the past. Washington began requiring a residential address for vehicle registrations last year.
Penny Murphy said she and her husband are able to vote because they continue on the voting rolls as residents of Lacey, Washington, using an address where they haven’t lived for five years. Absentee ballots are sent to their mailbox address. Penny said she has no way of casting an informed vote for local offices, such as the mayor of Lacey, but she doesn’t want to give up the right to vote
The voting issue came up in Texas, where the Escapees RV Club successfully established in court that its members may use the club’s mailbox address as their voting address. Texas also accepts the Escapees address for a driver’s license and vehicle registration.
Clearly, Washington and probably many other states have failed to recognize the special situation of full-time RVers and need to make provisions for them. There should be a way to handle driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations and voting so that full-time RVers don’t have to pretend their mailbox is an apartment or that they live with a relative.
In his letter, Bob Murphy pointed out that his choices seem to be to buy property in Washington, try to get Washington laws changed, or find a state that recognizes full-time RVing as a lifestyle and move there. The alternative, he said, is to stay the course and keep giving bogus addresses to the Washington authorities.
If you are a full-time RVer and have some ideas on the subject, we’d like to hear from you. And if you have any suggestions for the Murphys, we’ll pass those along, too.