Can I live/ sleep in the car in Germany?
If you want to save the money for an apartment/ hotel, sleeping in a car sounds like a good idea. But, is it allowed by law to live/ sleep in the car in Germany? The short answer is yes.
In this blog, I will share what I have read and my understanding of the legal situation on this topic.
“According to the Highway Code, it is not a problem if you stay in your own car,” explains the lawyer Jörg Elsner, chairman of the Association of Traffic Law in the German Bar Association (DAV).
A ban does not exist on sleeping in the car. Although the StVO determines where one is allowed to halt or park(§ 12 (4)); outside these restrictions, nothing is said against sleeping in the car, according to Jörg Elsner. Thus, it is therefore permissible from a traffic point of view, provided you are not on private property – without permission of the owner. Also, if you are parked in a paid parking zone, you need to have a valid parking ticket.
See also: How to find an apartment in Germany
But staying in a car can become an administrative problem, that is with a focus on the protection of public safety and order. The police are entrusted with this task and may take measures to ward off dangers or ensure public safety and order, such as road safety.
So, if a car owner parks for days on the roadside and sleeps in his car police might take action against him/her in certain cases, for example, if many days of garbage accumulates around the car or the curb is used as a toilet. The extent of penalties depends on the individual case. The car owner may be fined or cautioned for such problems, but not for sleeping in the car itself.
Potential legal problems and cautions about living/sleeping in a car in Germany:
- All people living in Germany are required to register (address needed) at the city registration office (Anmeldung). If you use a car as an apartment, you will get into the problem while registering.
- The one-time stay at the roadside in a car is generally okay as long as there exists no parking ban for the vehicle at that place. But you should be aware that it takes a certain amount of time to sleep in order to ensure the “restoration of physical ability to drive” as they say in Germany.
- Sleeping in a caravan may not be allowed in the streets of certain cities like Munich (Although one can still sleep in the caravan at designated camping places).
- If you’ve had a bit to drink, you can still spend a night in a standing car. In the past, a man was fined for drunk driving as he slept in the stationary car with the engine running for heating the car. Since it was not clear to prove that the man had been driving the car, the court overturned the sentence (judgment of 21 September 2014, AZ: 1 Ss 102/04). But as a precaution, neither should the key be stuck in the ignition, nor should you be sitting in the driver’s seat and neither should your engine be running.
- Anyone traveling in other European countries should read the corresponding regulations in the destination or transit countries beforehand. For example, in the Netherlands – the country of the caravan – sleeping in a caravan is prohibited. It is considered “wild camping” and costs money. The same applies to Portugal, Greece, Croatia or Denmark. But, in Sweden, however, it is allowed to be camped for one night in a caravan anywhere – be it by the sea or on private property. This goes back to a very old law, a so-called “Jedermannrecht”.
Summary: Sleeping is allowed in the car – there is nothing wrong with staying overnight in your own car, as long as parking is allowed on the spot. Nevertheless, you should not stay too long in one place.
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