How to Set Occupancy Limits for Apartments

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Landlords need to decide about occupancy limits for apartments before they start to advertise for a vacancy. That’s because they will get  a number of applicants with families or groups of different sizes. They need to know occupancy limits so they ensure the property is the right fit for the right applicants.

Why Are Occupancy Limits for Apartments Important?

Landlords obviously need to limit the number of occupants when renting their rental units. Without restricting the number of occupants, the property will get too much wear and tear. Too many people in one space can also lead to health issues with overcrowding.

It’s true that landlords can set a maximum occupancy limit for a rental property, but they must be careful not to cross over into discrimination for familial status.

Occupancy limits are also in the landlord’s best interest to prevent additional people from moving in that are not on the lease agreement and have not been screened. It’s a common problem that strict occupancy limits outlined in the lease can help prevent.

Can landlords limit the number of tenants?

As expected, the laws concerning occupancy limits for apartments can vary depending on state and city.

Fair housing regulations state that two people per bedroom is a reasonable standard that landlords can follow. This would be interpreted to mean two occupants of any age. However, there can always be exceptions, so landlords need to look at their local laws.

Many state and municipal building codes recommend following a ratio of square footage to occupants. An example of this would be making sure there is a certain number of square feet of living space for each occupant. Some codes identify what rooms can be considered bedrooms via square feet.

A good rule of thumb is to allow two people per each bedroom that is at least 70 square feet. Landlords should also be very clear to applicants about the number of adults allowed as permanent residents.

Before setting any occupancy limits, every landlord must contact their city’s local code enforcement agency. They must find out what the occupancy regulations and ordinances are for apartments. Then, landlords can base their limits accordingly. With proper research and a good lease, landlords can maintain control of the occupancy limits for apartments.

Maximum Occupancy One Bedroom Apartment

This will depend on the city itself.

For example, in New York State the occupancy laws read as follows…

Determining compliance with occupancy limitations is a two-step process: First, determine the minimum square footage required per person for bedrooms as specified in PMCNYS section 404.4.1, which requires that every bedroom occupied by one person shall contain 70 square feet. Keep in mind that the smallest bedroom allowed for one person (70 sq.ft) is barely enough space for a regular-sized bed and dresser. Every bedroom occupied by occupied by more that one person, shall contain 50 square feet for each occupant. Second, consult Table 404.5 to determine the total number of persons that can be accommodated with the space available in living rooms, dining rooms, and kitchens. When there is a conflict between these two categories, the lower number of occupants governs.

So for this example, a one bedroom apartment with a 7′ x 10′ room (70 square feet) would be a maximum of one renter but if that same apartment had a 120 square foot bedroom the maximum occupancy would be two renters.

Now for the tricky part… living rooms are considered habitable areas and count towards this equation. So if you have a 1 bedroom apartment with a 100 square foot living room and a 70 square foot bedroom the law states that the maximum occupancy is two people. Any area of the rental that is not a kitchen, hallway or bathroom counts towards the occupancy standards.

Occupancy Limits 2 Bedroom Apartment

Using the example listed above a two bedroom apartment could have an occupancy limit as low as two people (assuming both rooms are at least 70 square feet) and it goes up from there depending on the square footage of the livable spaces of the apartment. This is based on NYS laws.

It’s crucial that you research your state and city occupancy laws. Once you understand those laws you can contrast them against your two bedroom apartment to figure out a proper occupancy limit.

RentPrep’s Take On Occupancy Limits for Apartments

When it comes to occupancy numbers, landlords can get into trouble with discrimination against familial status. In other words, landlords cannot reject an applicant because they have children. That would violate the Fair Housing Act.

However, landlords can set a reasonable occupancy limit. Therefore, if the total number of adults and children on an application exceeds that reasonable occupancy limit, landlords are fully justified to turn down that application.

Every landlord should know that the lease agreement must be very clear on who can live in the apartment. It should also have a clause about how long visitors can stay in the unit before they would be considered in violation of the lease.

A landlord should always limit total occupancy to lease signatories and any minor dependents. Or in a roommate situation, the lease should list every adult. Full background checks must be done on every adult.

As with many rental property issues, there’s no single answer on how to properly limit the number of people in a rental.

For example, California has a “two people plus one” as a standard for each bedroom, while in Chicago, the courts have agreed that three people may occupy a bedroom if one of them is a child.

Some places use a square foot per person criteria. Also, many cities restrict the number of unrelated adults in a single rental to crack down on overcrowded student housing.