From Texas-sized 2 Tiny House For Three
Big day today!! I’ve been stressing out for over a year about the day we would attempt to re-title our “flat bed trailer” into an “RV Travel Trailer,” and at least for us my fears were a bit unwarranted. Let me pause by giving two disclaimers for the following info, and those are that 1) it turns out we had an extra leg up we didn’t learn about until just this morning and 2) this info applies only to Texas as other states may have other rules. Still, our experience gives me hope others will have similar outcomes if they prepare as we did.
Last year when we went to register our Barn Raiser, we had the initial title from Tumbleweed that listed it as a flat bed trailer. We dutifully paid the fees (and the late fees since we had been too busy moving out of the Big House to make the drive to the tax office on time) and asked how we might go about eventually changing the title to a Travel Trailer. We showed the deputy clerk what we were working on with the photos I had snapped of the Barn Raiser the day we went to pick it up, and she started making a list of documents we’d need to bring back. She also asked if we were having professionals do the building, particularly the electrical and plumbing, and I let her know more likely we’d hire pros to design the system but install it ourselves. She said that should be fine and advised us to bring photos, particularly one that shows the VIN visible with the house in the background if possible.
My original post here has a listing of the documents we were told to bring back with us just FYI, and I also added the one that refers to Homemade Travel Trailers since ours seems to fall into the grey area between being professionally manufactured and framed but completed at home by us. Turns out we didn’t need that one, but I’d suggest taking it (or your state’s equivalent) along with you if you have DIY’d your house. That way you have a second way of explaining what it is you’re trying to register if you, like us, initially get a deer-in-headlights look from your local clerk.
Anyway, if you don’t know already, manufactured trailers have their VIN affixed to them usually in the form of an engraved plate welded onto the tongue or something similar. The plate is black just like the trailer itself, but you can still see it pretty clearly with just a casual glance. Well, this morning before we left to go plead our case I went outside and tried to take a photo where you could see both the VIN plate and at least some identifying part of the house itself all in the same shot. What I came up with were the following three photos.
Until this morning I’d never even noticed the white sticker next to the black VIN plate. Add to that, I didn’t even know what it said until I came back inside and uploaded the above photos to print. As soon as I focused on it a little better I realized we had a whole new angle to work at the tax office, because according to that white sticker our Barn Raiser was already classified as a Park Model Travel Trailer! I ran back outside to take a better picture of the white tag because I couldn’t even believe it, but yup – it was there plain as the nose on my face.
I wasn’t entirely sure what that was going to mean for us as far as changing the title went, but I told Brandy my plan of attack was now to go in with the spiel being that we registered it wrong last year in error and it should have been a travel trailer all along. I still had all my Tumbleweed paperwork proving the sale and specifying all the Barn Raiser details, so I figured it was worth a shot to almost play dumb in a way. If that didn’t work, though, we also still had the Tiny House Systems documents that prove the electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and safety systems were designed by professionals using th NFPA and ANSI codes, as well as the actual code booklets to boot. We had the weight ticket, the inspection report (and now we know why the guy asked us how the trailer was registered – the sticker & plate conflicted with each other), all the requested forms, and some printed photos of the exterior to show the clerk, too. We knew at the very least we could register it as a flat bed trailer again, but since we’d let the tags expire in July we’d be paying for more late fees as well as not obtaining the added benefits of RV status. Needless to say, my stomach was churning and yet I was still hopeful.
After the initial look of dumbfounded confusion faded from the clerk’s face when I stopped using the term “park model” and switched to the more recognizable “travel trailer” after handing her the photo of the white sticker, her stupor evaporated completely when I handed her a photo of the house as Brandy was backing out to head to the weigh station on Saturday. I explained that another clerk had instructed us to bring some specific forms back, so I handed her all of those along with the flat bed trailer title, inspection form, and weight certificate. She stated she needed to show them to someone else and stepped to the back office, but she returned pretty quickly and asked for the dimensions of the house. I told her it’s 24′ long without the tongue and that the trailer is 8.5′ wide at the wheels but only 8′ or so for the house itself. She started inputting data into the computer but ran into a snag and had to excuse herself again.
We overheard the clerk say to someone we couldn’t see behind a half wall that when she typed in the dimensions the system kept giving her an error message, and upon hearing their reply she disappeared into an office for a few minutes. I started getting nervous again at this point, but she returned a couple minutes later stating simply that their system wouldn’t accept the width of a park model as only being 8′ wide. She informed us they had tested 9′ in the system and would use that dimension instead, which worries me a bit since that technically makes us a wide load on paper at least. She also stated they have to use the weights on the weight ticket to determine the empty and gross weights for the actual registration paperwork, so I explained the weight ticket only had the empty weight of the total trailer but didn’t account for what the trailer itself actually holds. She showed us that the Gross Weight being used for registration purposes would be 10,400lbs, the empty weight would be 10,300lbs (which was rounded up from the 10,240lbs on the ticket), leaving us just 100lbs for belongings according to the registration form. I asked her if that was ever going to give us problems since the trailer clearly states it holds 15k-lbs gross, but she assured us it wouldn’t. Just to be safe, though, I told Brandy I’m going to keep copies of the original flat bed registration paperwork and a photo of both of the VIN tags in the truck so we could show any officers we might run into that no, the house isn’t really overweight if it’s 12k-lbs and the registration papers cap out at 10,400lbs. Better safe than sorry methinks!
So, after a few more keyboard clicks and forms signed, we were handed Travel Trailer plates and informed we owed about $165 total (yay! no late fees!) for the day. It’ll cost us $130 annually for the registration, and we will need to bring the house back into Texas next September for another inspection prior to registration. I’ve already sent our insurance agent all the details to add insurance coverage, but I’m also planning to contact Darrel Grenz Insurance to see if we can get coverage from his Lloyds of London plans he offers in Colorado and a few other select states. We’ll still be doing some finish work on the house through the fall, so we certainly want to be well protected during the process and beyond!
Now, how would someone who DOESN’T happen to have a sticker that conveniently shows their THOW to already be a Park Model Travel Trailer register theirs as an RV Travel Trailer or Homemade Travel Trailer? Well, that will likely depend on your state and county specifically. I did, however, ask our clerk this:
“If we hadn’t had that Park Model sticker, would all these forms and everything we brought you be enough to change the title to a travel trailer?”
Her reply was, “It’s the photos that really did it.”
So, there you have it. Having the proper forms for changing the title – in our case the 130-U Application for Title, which had a box to check if you are correcting the vehicle description – and photographic proof that yes, there really is a “camper” on your flat bed trailer was apparently the biggest deciding factor for the re-titling beyond our proof that it should have been a Park Model all along. I only showed them exterior shots (primarily because the inside isn’t done), but you’d be better off with pics of both the inside and outside when the building is complete I suspect. Gather as many supporting documents as you can showing you built your house safely (no, we didn’t have to show ours, but I still say it’s an excellent idea), and give it a try. The worst thing that could happen is you have to register it as a flat bed and insure your “load” instead.
Anyway, I’m about to pass out face first onto my iPad after chipping away at this post over a few hours, and I’ve got to be up early. Tomorrow is packing and loading day, and there’s a TON of both to be done. I’ve still got to squeeze in an IKEA trip to pick up a few things, but at least I was able to stop on the way home from dinner to get our bedding and cat supplies from Target. My dad has agreed to watch the Pugs until December so we can get a bit more settled, but Kitty Pryde is coming with us on Friday. The little man would be very, very sad if his precious Kitty didn’t come with us!
Good night for now, and check back for updates from the road soon!