Landlord/Tenant Issues: Too Many People in One Unit

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Imagine you are a law abiding landlord with a vacancy and a potential renter fills out your application form. The vacancy is for a two bedroom, one bathroom, and one half bathroom unit. You read over the application and are astounded to find out that the potential tenant is requesting eight people live in the unit with her. You feel like that is too many people and want to reject the application, but you still want to be a legally responsible landlord.

There is actually no legal formula for the amount of people that can live in one unit. You as the landlord can take a safety approach, and reject the application because it just wouldn’t be a safe living condition to have eight people living in a two bedroom unit. As long as you are not practicing illegal discrimination, you can set a limit on the amount of people living in the unit. However, that number must be a reasonable number.

The best thing to do is limit your occupancy to whatever number the government has set for a comparable unit. The FHA authorizes federal, state or local restrictions regarding the maximum number of occupants permitted to occupy rental units. Enforcement of reasonable occupancy limit laws does not amount to discrimination based on familial status. Just make sure to apply it uniformly without regard to family composition. As a guide, the FHA policy is that occupancy of two persons per bedroom is presumptively reasonable and not unlawful discrimination.

The Los Angeles Municipal Code makes it unlawful to refuse to rent to or discriminate against any person based on age, parenthood, pregnancy or the potential or actual tenancy of a minor child; or to include a provision in the rental or lease agreement that the tenant shall remain childless, shall not bear children or shall not maintain a household with a person of a certain age.

Check your local ordinances to make sure you are not violating the law and acting discriminatorily.

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