Number of Occupants?

8 Replies

Are there regulations at the Federal or state (Michigan) level restricting the number of rental occupants per bedroom and siblings per bedroom? After 11 years we just had a mixed family move out and in the last three months at any one time there could be a total of 7 people in a two bedroom. Never had that happen.

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Originally posted by @Dan Goeckel :

@Justin Hoggatt Thank you for the post, unfortunately I can’t see that or read it.

 They posted a screenshot from the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan (fhcwm.org). It shows the minimum sqft for the number of occupants.

For 1-2 occupants: 120 sf living room

For 3-5 occupants: 120 sf living room, 80 sf dining room

For 6 or more occupants: 150 sf living room, 100 sf dining room

Regardless of the number of occupants, for bedrooms the rules are the same 50 sf/occupant and a min of 70 sf for one occupant.

If you have that many people coming and going, you need to remind the tenants that only those listed on the lease (and their children under 18) are allowed to live there.  I'm guessing you don't have a clause in the lease that limits how long guests can stay.

@Theresa Harris

Yes, we did constantly tell them we believed that was the law and because of the pandemic and lifting of the moratorium (we have a had a ton of turn over this year, but we are fortunate because the last three years we had all 16 units occupied by same people) they could not find a place that was suitable for their size. Both were divorced and working with exes to alleviate the overcrowding. Yes, we did put in our lease maximum of 14 days at one time and total for the year…a lot of things are slightly flexible right now. Thank you so much for the information!

That's actually meant to protect tenants by STOPPING landlords from cramming as many tenants into a property as possible.

You'll need to check your local ordinances for any statutes you can use.

FYI: Section 8 usually allows 2 people/bedroom, but they also allow two people to use living room as temp bedroom (sofa bed). So, two bedroom could theoretically have 6 people.

Otherwise, you'll just have to enforce/modify your lease terms.

Unfortunately the whole thing is a little vague. Even this guide from Michigan is simply a guide and not a law or code. You need to look at federal, state and local standards, then setup rules for the property. Have valid reasoning for the restriction and apply it evenly to anyone who applies, so it holds up in court. 

Occupancy standards have many reasons for limitations. The biggest one is fire safety and fire code. When you enter any commercial building, you see "occupancy limit" which is based on the number of people that can safely occupy a property and safely get out of a property in a fire. 

The Michigan guide says one bedroom occupant per 50 square feet, which means in a 10 foot by 10 foot bedroom, you would have two occupants. It would need to be 150 square feet for three, which is a fairly large bedroom and uncommon. In general the two per bedroom rule holds up. Also be aware that fair housing cases have looked at the age of the occupant when considering occupancy. Having two adults in a bedroom and one infant may be acceptable in a 100 square foot bedroom. Babies take up less space and it is common for babies to sleep in their parents room when they are first born. 

Even beyond bedrooms, the living room is considered a sleeping area. This would be a pull out couch where one or two people can sleep. 

When you are limiting occupancy, focus on the safety aspect. Have written standards for your property with rationale to support, such as NFPA (fire code), state or local standards and Federal HUD guidelines.

Originally posted by @Dan Goeckel :

@Theresa Harris

Yes, we did constantly tell them we believed that was the law and because of the pandemic and lifting of the moratorium (we have a had a ton of turn over this year, but we are fortunate because the last three years we had all 16 units occupied by same people) they could not find a place that was suitable for their size. Both were divorced and working with exes to alleviate the overcrowding. Yes, we did put in our lease maximum of 14 days at one time and total for the year…a lot of things are slightly flexible right now. Thank you so much for the information!

 They may not be able to find a single unit to accommodate all of them.  Perhaps they should look to find two places that are close to each other (eg 2 units in the same building).