Code Enforcement vs. A SkoolieHow to use Bureaucracy to your Advantage and Fight Back!
Everyone wants to kill your good time! If not kill it, strangle it with red tape until it is unconscious. It is odd that in a country that was founded on rugged individualism and making due with what you have at hand, it would be so negative when it comes to school bus conversions.
First of all let me say that for the most part people like the idea. Converting a school bus into an RV has been, overall a positive experience. While every person I’ve talked to face-to-face has expressed positive surprise when I tell them what we are doing, the system as a whole doesn’t like it.
Most of all I am referring to code enforcement, vehicle registration, and insurance companies. I find it odd that the government, and many independent testing companies have declared the School bus to be the safest vehicle designed to transport children. Yet when that same vehicle is used to go camping it becomes a menace on the road, made from nitroglycerine, venereal disease, and covered with broken glass.
But I digress, this tale is about neighbors and zoning laws. Putting aside the trouble at the Tax office and getting insurance let me tell you how to get around some of this red tape.
Code Enforcement Says, “You Can’t Park that Here!”
We had our school bus parked in our driveway for about a month when we got a letter. It was from the local code enforcement telling us it was illegal to park a commercial vehicle in a residentially zoned area.
Apparently they consider a school bus a commercial vehicle. The city says it is a truck, but the insurance companies disagree with that assessment. But again, I digress.
When you get a letter like this you tend to get excited. They use words and phrases very specifically designed to heighten your fear and anxiety. At first glance it sounds like you are going to be fined hundreds of dollars a day unless you do something RIGHT NOW!
A more careful reading will reveal nothing is going to happen any time soon. We called the code enforcement office and asked if I could park my RV or motor home in my yard. They said as long as people are not living in it I would not be violating any code doing so.
The next thing we did was to lookup and read the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, form TL-13, CERTIFICATE OF TITLE REQUIREMENTS FOR RECREATIONAL VEHICLES, MOBILE HOMES AND OFFICE TRAILERS. Its a wealth of information. Boiled down, all we needed to do was submit an affidavit requesting the vehicle be classified as a recreational vehicle.
We created the affidavit and took it to a local Ship & Mail place and got it notarized. We then took the affidavit along with the TL-13 document down to the tax office. Here is a affidavit template if you need one:
CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: Affidavit for the bus
Just Don’t Say “School Bus”!
At the tax office we gave the woman our paperwork and said we’d like to change the title of our “vehicle” and add my wife’s name. Adding my wife’s name to the title was a great way of skirting the whole school bus conversion issue. Saying, “School Bus” can sometimes raise questions and the last thing you need is government employees asking questions.
The tax lady didn’t have a clue as to what to do. She had to talk to her supervisor. I could see them reading over the TL-13 document. It took some time but they never questioned a thing, they just processed the paperwork. We sat quietly, meekly, not even thinking the words “School Bus Conversion”.
Once we had the new title in our hot little hands we called the code enforcement man. We explained that there must be an error somewhere. We don’t own a “School Bus” we own a Motor Home. He agreed to stop by and look at the paperwork. He was an agreeable guy and he looked over everything carefully.
As a result of a simple classification change our school bus, sorry, Motor Home no longer violated code. The code enforcement man was satisfied and offered his apologies for bothering us.
It is amazing how two letters typed in a box on a form can change everything. The bus, sorry Motor Home had not gone through any transformation, no metamorphosis, no revelation. But through the power of bureaucracy the bus, sorry again, Motor Home had gone through a profound and fundamental change.