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Tip #185: Running the Numbers

Tread carefully when rejecting a rental application from a family with children on the basis of occupancy limits.

While housing watchdog HUD has issued statements that suggest a standard 2-person per bedroom limit, recent fair housing cases indicate that occupancy limits are by no means standard — like the famous movie quip — “they’re more like guidelines anyway.”

Likewise, local occupancy standards alone may not justify a landlord rejecting a family with children.   When deciding whether to charge a landlord under the Fair Housing Act, HUD will consider many other factors, including:

The layout of the rental property.  Does it contain a room suitable for sleeping but not properly designated a bedroom — like a den, bonus room, or office?

The overall size of the property. More family members can fit into large spaces.

The age of the children.  Younger children can easily double and triple up, or sleep in mom and dad’s room.

Any limitations on sewer, water or heating capabilities.

The history of the landlord regarding families with children.

Landlords should avoid leasing policies that specify the number of children allowed on a property — it may be better to simply refer to the maximum number of people.

If you have questions about occupancy standards for your rental property, spend a few minutes with an attorney before you reject an applicant family –and wind up defending a costly fair housing claim.

See last week’s Landlord Quick Tip.

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