Occupancy Limits in Grand Rapids

13 Replies

Has anyone else run into issues with over occupancy in GR? I have a 6-bed, 2-bath SFH that I rent to college students. I used to rent to 6 but two years ago was hit with a zoning violation.

"Did allow more than four (4) unrelated individuals eighteen (18) years of age or older to occupy a dwelling unit (5.16.02.F)"

So the last few years I've only rented to 4 students. Having two rooms sit empty if both a bummer for me and tenants (who paid less per person). Is there anyway around this? It seems like a terrible law. I'm offering much nicer housing than on campus, for less rent.

Any Advice?

@Jake DeBoer we have the same issues here in Pittsburgh PA. Near the universities you have to be careful and know the zoning rules before you buy or rent out your property to stay in compliance with how many non related people that can be housed. 

So would you be in compliance if you have 2 sets of related students living together and then 2 other students? If so, I would try and find siblings that would live together. I knew several twins/siblings when I went to GV.. it might be harder to find but it would be a win/win for you and for them..

@Nathan Broekhuizen I think so... as long as they cook together too. Here is the actual definition of family in code:


1. Any number of persons related by blood, marriage, adoption or guardianship, occupying a dwelling unit and living as a single nonprofit housekeeping unit; or not more than four (4) unrelated individuals eighteen (18) years of age or older living together in one (1) dwelling unit, having a relationship which is functionally equivalent to a family. The relationship must be of a permanent and distinct character, cooking as a single housekeeping unit with a demonstrable and recognizable bond characteristic of a cohesive unit.

2. The following do not qualify as a family: Any society, club, fraternity, sorority, association, lodge, organization, coterie, combine, federation, organization which is not a recognized religious order, or group of students or other individuals where the common living arrangement or basis for the establishment of the housekeeping unit is temporary and/or of resort-seasonal character in nature. The term family does not include any adult foster care facility licensed under Public Act No. 218 of 1979 (MCL 400.701 et seq.) except an adult foster care family home as defined in Section 3 of that Act (MCL 400.703)."

@Jake DeBoer i appreciate all of the legal advice and definitions of this and of that but you have to consider this. There is the LAW and then there is practical application. You dont want to get into a legal battle with a magistrate or local code enforcement. You have to pick your battles. find out what these people will accept and their tolerance levels as a landlord. Get on their good side and never ever tell them they are wrong. You have to work within the system and its different in every town and area.

@Ian Hoover I'm not offering legal advise and I am following the law. Also, I realize the system is different in every area which is why I posted this in a Grand Rapids specific forum - Do you have any actual local experience to add?

I rented through a company who knew we had 6 people in our house but we only were allowed to have four of us sign the lease. Didn't have any issues and it was a win-win for us and the landlord. 

Do you use a property management company or manage your property?

I self manage. Not a bad idea until someone flags it with the city. When this happened we had to kick two tenants out and "prove" only 4 remained in the house (ie. only 4 beds), it was a hassle.

@Jake DeBoer Yeah, we had one city inspection during that time. The company sent over two techs and they moved our clothes out of one closet and we had two "guest rooms", city probably knew what was going on but they didn't make a fuss. Sorry for you're experience 

If you are ever interested in hiring or learning more about a property management company, I work for United Properties of West Michigan and would love to help answer any questions you have. 

Is it cost prohibitive to add a second kitchen and separate the property into 2 units? Would that bring you into compliance since then you would have no more than 4 in one unit?

Originally posted by @Michele G. :

Is it cost prohibitive to add a second kitchen and separate the property into 2 units? Would that bring you into compliance since then you would have no more than 4 in one unit?

 Zoning doesn't allow for a duplex, we looked into that.

Jake unfortunately there is no way legally to get around this city ordinance.  Make sure you don't sign a lease with all 6 students as this would be a huge liability in the event fire or major event. Ignorance is the best defense, but make sure you are actually ignorant to that fact.  This can be documented with a lease with only 4 adults, and your advertisement.   We manage hundreds of properties and we do run into this on occasion.  The city will make us remove beds and provide a copy of the lease if they suspect this.  In all circumstances we have been able to resolve it successfully. 

It sucks. I got hit with it here in Stl too and I wasn't aware of the law  when I first started renting out. From my experience, siblings count as one entity. It really is a dumb law especially when your place is legally allowed to hold 3 times as many people as they allow in terms of unrelated people. what a waste of space

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