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I was recounting an incident that happened to me several years back to a friend. While the issue is "resolved," I never learned of the proper, legal way to resolve the issue. I am curious if someone out there knows what should have been done.

I was in the process of purchasing a house, which of course takes time. Before I was finished purchasing and taking possession of the house, the lease on my apartment was expiring. Rather than renting the apartment on a month-to-month lease, which was extremely expensive, I decided to move into an extended stay hotel for a couple of months. I moved into the hotel and subsequently changed my mailing address on the United Stated Post Office website to the hotel's address and room number.

While living in the hotel, I received a letter from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles notifying me that my driver's license was expiring after 7 years and needed to be renewed. No big deal, I will just go online and renew it on Virginia's DMV website. However, the DMV website would not let me renew. I kept receiving an error that the address I entered was invalid. I called the DMV and explained the situation, but got nowhere. I was told to go into the DMV and talk to them in person. So that's what I did. However, the DMV had no idea what to do in this situation. Here were the issues:

  • I could not use the hotel as my place of residence, as the DMV does not accept hotels as legal residences
  • I could not use my previous apartment, as I was no longer a legal resident
  • I could not use the address of the house I was purchasing, as I had not yet become a legal resident
  • I could not rent and use a USPS post office box, as the DMV does not allow PO boxes as legal residences

One DMV worker suggested I just let my license expire and get a new one after I moved. That could have worked, if I wasn't in need of a valid driver's license for the following reasons:

  1. I needed a valid driver's license to rent a moving truck
  2. I needed a valid driver's license to drive the moving truck

The worker's at the DMV offered me no viable solution whatsoever. They said they would get back to me. Of course, they never did.

I had to renew my license. I made a genuine and sincere effort to solve this dilemma legally and properly. I reached out to the DMV repeatedly by phone and in person and was not given a solution. With no options or time left, I ended up with no choice but fibbing on the DMV website. I rented a PO box from a shipping and mailing businesses that let you use their mailing address for your mail, so it appears as if you have a legitimate business address, not just a PO box. Fortunately, the DMV website allowed me to use that address. Of course, I changed my address to my house after I moved in. So everything is taken care of now.

I am genuinely curious, as to what I could of or should have done. The DMV which was supposed to help me with this situation, provided me with no viable answers. Was there anything I could have or should have done in this situation? I doubt I am the first person that this particular set of circumstances has happened to, but I suppose it is possible.

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This is an interesting question. If a person who is in fact a long-term resident of a residence hotel is not allowed to legally obtain a VA driver's license, that might well be a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the 14th amendment to the US Federal constitution. Of course, bringing a case challenging the VA practice on that point would have taken much too long, and would probably have cost too much. If any such challenge has been brought, I can't find it through a quick online search.

This official document lists acceptable proof of residence documents, and does not say that a hotel is not acceptable. But you would probably have had to sue to enforce this.

As a practical answer, I would have attempted to arrange with the sellers for you to receive mail at the house being purchased, and then arranged for, say a bank statement to go to that address early. Arguably that was your legal residence even though you had not yet moved in.

This document posted by a law firm says:

Va. Code §58.1-302 defines an individual’s domicile as his permanent place of residence and the place to which he intends to return, even though he may reside elsewhere from time-to-time

...

Further guidance in determining an individual’s domicile for Virginia tax purposes is provided by 23 VAC 10-110-30. This regulation provides that an individual has only one domicile and, once established, continues until the individual moves to a new location with a bona fide intention to make his fixed and permanent home there. Thus, a change in domicile requires two concurrent actions — residence in a new locale and the intention to remain there indefinitely.

This might mean that if the hotel was not a valid residence, that your former apartment was still your legal residence until you have moved to the new house.

  • He's right that a lot of DMV's wont take an address that is not a residential structure. IL does it. – Putvi May 31 at 19:15
  • Maybe I wasnt clear in my post, but putting the hotel's address in the DMV's website said this was not a valid address. The DMV workers also told me that it wasnt allowed. Even if it was legal, the DMV website and DMV workers would not allow me to use it. – Keltari May 31 at 19:20
  • Also, the link you listed is not working as of right now. – Keltari May 31 at 19:27
  • The link works for me. It goes to a PDF page on the VA DMV site that lists documents accepted for proof of residence – David Siegel May 31 at 19:31
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I don't mean it in a derogatory way, but what they explained to you was correct and they are kind of the arbitrator of licenses in your state, honestly.

They have to go by the rules of the DMV and if they say your address must be a residential structure then you have to follow that.

  • I'm from IL, but I have worked for the court system in IN and the sheriff here in IL. I don't mean to offend you, but just because the DMV rules don't suit you doesn't mean you don't have follow them. – Putvi May 31 at 18:58
  • I dont mean to offend you, but I am "from it" as well, having worked in several police departments. Being a sheriff doesnt make you an expert at the law, just familiar with it. And if you read my post, the DMV said they would provide me with a solution, but simply failed to do so. – Keltari May 31 at 19:07
  • I'm not saying you haven't worked in law enforcement. I just don't make the rules for the Virginia DMV. It's not that I am accusing you of doing it maliciously or anything, but you have to follow their rules. They didn't give you a solution because they don't have one. I don't think they are going out of their way to not give you a license. – Putvi May 31 at 19:10
  • My state does the same thing Keltari, there's just nothing you can do in some cases. – Putvi May 31 at 19:17

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