Last year I spoke to an older couple in Pimmit Hills that said they had raised 4 children in one of the standard 3br/1ba ramblers. To them it didn’t seem like a big deal – but it must have been tight with 6 people in 3 bedrooms and 1 bath (spread over 884 square feet…)
Times change. A 5,000 sq/ft home with 5 bedrooms and 5 baths may seem just right for a family of 3 or 4 nowadays. It is not uncommon to want to have extra space for family and guests as well as rooms for a home office, a play room and a media rooms etc.
Still, even with larger homes the question of overcrowding and occupancy limits keeps causing controversy. This is particularly true in regards to homes used as boarding homes with the individual rooms rented out. Having a few roommates to make ends meet seems reasonable to most – subdividing living, dining and basement to make 10-15 extra “bedrooms” may not. In most cases, neighbors and communities start to suffer and property values follow. And that is not even gettin ginto safety concerns with doors and windows being locked and blocked.
In response, local jurisdictions passed occupance limits and have started to enforce exisiting limits vigoursly. Some areas have put together overcrowding “swat” teams to investigate complaints. With rising unemployment, sharing housing is an attractive way to save money and get ahead for many.
As a landlord it is important to know what the rules are. You will have to take into consideration both HOA/Condominium Association rules, local jurisdiction regulations and Federal/Fair Housing rules.
Fair Housing gets involved with the number of people primarily through the protected group called “familial status.” As a basic rule, you are not allowed to discriminate based on the number of people that apply for your rental unit. In general, you cannot arbitrarily decide that your 3 bedroom home can only support up to 3 people. Also, you cannot say “no children”, “only married people”, “no people under 30” etc. Trying to circumvent the rules by something like “maximum 2 incomes to qualify” would likely also be construed as a way to limit the number of people occupying a home.
That being said, I don’t believe the intent is for you to have to accept 10 people for your 2 bedroom condo either…
So, how many is too many? The “general” rule for determining a reasonable occupancy is 2 persons per bedroom. That means, in general, for a 4 bedroom home you would have to allow an applicant with 8 persons to rent your home (assuming they otherwise qualify.)
The 2 persons per bedroom is not a set rule. The sizes of the bedrooms do matter and small rooms may only be large enough to accommodate 1 person.
There are also other rules based on the jurisdiction – for example in Fairfax County there can be a maximum of 4 unrelated people in one dwelling. Also, no more than one family plus two renters may live in one house (more info on their website.)
Fairfax County’s building code says bedrooms must be:
- 70 square feet for one person
- 100 square feet for two people
- 150 square feet for three people
Also condo associations can have their say – In Woodburn Village, a one bedroom with a den is only permitted to house 3 persons according to the rules and regulations (one bedroom/den is often listed as a 2 bedroom unit.)
So, in summary, do your research before denying anyone based on the number of people applying to live in your home. If you don’t, you could be violating fair housing or local rules and could also be discriminating unfairly.