"NO SECTION 8" "ONE PERSON ONLY" & "BACHELOR PAD"

14 Replies

Legal or not in your jurisdiction? Here in CA, i believe there are anti-discrimation laws that state a landlord cannot discrimate on the SOURCE of the income, nor can they refuse households based on the sex of the applicant, or the number of applicants.

While i totally understand the first 2 (source of income, as long as legal, and sex of applicants) I dont understand why if you are renting a studio with zero bedrooms, you can't limit the occupancy to say one person.

Thoughts?

In most every state Section 8 is a participatory program that landlords can chose whether or not they will participate in it (for now at least) So, although your state law says you cannot discriminate on the SOURCE of the income it does not say you must participate in the program or accept all government subsidies.

To my understanding in California the Dept of Agriculture regulates most of the landlord tenant laws for state specific. For the occupancy requirements doesn't it state that a unit can be occupied by two people per bedroom plus one? In a sense, a studio is a open one bedroom therefore you can have up to two people plus one? Most states allow for the Landlord to limit the total occupancy to say no more than four individuals may occupy a two bedroom apartment of which only two can be adults.

I have heard some horror stories about California's regulations. One such regulation I am aware of is that you cannot discriminate against a person for the "association" to or with gay, lesbian or transgender individuals. Not sure if that is state specific or on the municipality level.

I do not recall the case but there was recently a discrimination case in California that went a little something like this:

Tenants of a large apartment building complained of another tenant in the building who stood in his window, blind open masturbating while other tenants came home from work. The management terminated the lease on the grounds that the individual was violating the quiet enjoyment for other residents and was interfering with the companies ability to conduct business. During the eviction hearing, the tenant claimed he was being evicted because he was gay. Long story short the tenant lost after arbitration and HUD involvement.

I believe @Marcus Curtis   is right on all he stated.

From what I have read, Section 8 has been argued in court and the court determined that Section 8 money is not "income" so landlords are allowed to not accept it.  We don't accept Section 8 for our CA units.  My understanding is that it's a voluntary program and landlords are not required to accept it.  Here's an article about a case I read about regarding Section 8 not having to be accepted:

http://realtytimes.com/todaysheadlines1/item/2224-...

Specifically, here are the most pertinent paragraphs relating to Section 8 not being income:

The allegation that the Fair Employment and Housing Act was violated centered on the prohibition against housing discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, or disability of that person." (Emphasis added.)

The appellate court ruled that the landlord

Kinda skimmed posts;

All the areas mention by the OP are federal requirements, except the number of applicants part. You can deny a large family for example with a 2bdr unit or a 1 bdr unit as there is a bedroom and sq ft requirement to be met per person and for minors of different sexes.

A studio can be limited to two or two and an infant as that meets the one bedroom requirement.

Saying they must be single or limiting to one person is discrimination as to family composition, you can't define what their "family" can or can not be. That gets to be treading on thin ice. 

You can look to the sq ft requirements of a sleeping area per person and if that area can not be enlarged by rearranging the furniture for example, then you may say there is only the legal space for one person for sleeping.

Local custom will likely define the bedroom area of a studio, it could be the entire room or it may be defined by a fixed divider dividing the sleeping area to other functional spaces.

There are also SROs, single room occupancy zoning regulations, if your property has a SRO designation then one person can be the limit. That doesn't apply to a guest that is reasonable there.

Section 8 vouchers go to family applicants first, if there are no applicants then a single person might qualify without a disability, I've never seen it as they don't have enough vouchers for the number of applicants, there is a waiting list.

Section 8 is voluntary, there is no requirement for an independent landlord to accept Sec 8, the exception is when government funds might be involved in financing a rental unit and then there are requirements to meet affordable housing goals for low-moderate income levels which can be accomplished by accepting Sec 8.

I purchased a tri-plex from the city, new rehab where the builder went bust, the city financed it with financing on the condition it was available for low mod incomes. I didn't put that one in Sec 8, as I can do the underwriting to do low-mods, and my docs could back it up. City knew that and didn't require Sec 8, but they could have if they had doubts of landlord compliance.

Studios are great for college students!!!! Concrete walls with plaster/paint, tile floors, boom proof cabinets, slide in appliances, LOL  :)  

@Marcus Curtis  While California as a state does have an income discrimination law, you are correct that it was ruled in court to not cover Section 8 as part of it. Interestingly enough, you can thank Donald Sterling, the racist former owner of the Clippers, for winning that case. A current tenant of one of his properties got a Section 8 voucher a while after moving in and paying rent per usual. She attempted to use the voucher on the unit, without any other modifications to the rental agreement or total rent paid and, allegedly, after some very unkind words about her worth as an individual receiving a subsidy from the gov't, was told no. Long story short, Don Sterling eventually won in court and gave notice to the woman to move out. 

While I'm not aware of any other state that has a blanket income discrimination law, a substantial number of municipalities do and most municipalities that have one do intend for them to cover Section 8 participation as well, and some explicitly say so (such as NYC and Buffalo, NY). The idea being that the tenant's portion of rent (roughly 35% of income) on the program is the industry standard for an appropriate proportion of income to spent on rent, so any discrimination based on their ability to pay is just discrimination against them for being poor, rather than actual ability to pay. There is obviously some lively debate surrounding that concept. 

As for terms such as "bachelor pad", "not suitable for children", "perfect for older couple" etc. while usually harmlessly intended, are pretty obviously not kosher with fair housing laws. I've personally witnessed quite a few folks be denied apartments for obviously discriminatory reasons with virtually no recourse available, so setting the bar for advertisements at "not discriminatory" seems a reasonable level. 

As for apartment size v. occupancy #, I don't understand why this hasn't been made more clear in law. Many here on the forum tend to go by the Section 8/HUD guidelines for their own programs, which is (overly simplified) 1 bedroom per 2 people, which seems safe, but no one has been able to produce, nor have I been able to find, maximum occupancy rules for localities. It doesn't seem like it should be too debatable that a 4 person family is not going to fit in a 1 bedroom apartment.

Not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV :-)

Originally posted by @Bradley Bogdan:

As for terms such as "bachelor pad", "not suitable for children", "perfect for older couple" etc. while usually harmlessly intended, are pretty obviously not kosher with fair housing laws. I've personally witnessed quite a few folks be denied apartments for obviously discriminatory reasons with virtually no recourse available, so setting the bar for advertisements at "not discriminatory" seems a reasonable level. 

As for apartment size v. occupancy #, I don't understand why this hasn't been made more clear in law. Many here on the forum tend to go by the Section 8/HUD guidelines for their own programs, which is (overly simplified) 1 bedroom per 2 people, which seems safe, but no one has been able to produce, nor have I been able to find, maximum occupancy rules for localities. It doesn't seem like it should be too debatable that a 4 person family is not going to fit in a 1 bedroom apartment.

Thanks for all your thoughts; I've voted for everyone's wholesome insight above!

So looks like I'll join the bandwagon and go by the Sec8/HUD guidelines as well for sake of simplicity until made clearer in law/practice: 1 bedroom per 2 people.

For that 1 bedroom (or studio treated as a 1 bedroom) is it 2 people total, or do 2 adults also have the right to not be discriminated against because they also have 1 toddler and want the 1 bedroom (or studio treated as a 1 bedroom)? and what about if the 2 people applying for a 1 bedroom but have 2 or 3 kids, can they be legally eliminated from lease approval because of the total # individuals for a 1 bedroom? 

I've already had lots of 2-adult plus kid(s) households applying for a studio and while not binding legal advice it would be reassuring if someone or the real estate community agrees that its okay to turn away 2 adults plus kid(s) from a studio or 1 bedroom without risking discriminatory practice. (And I really do prefer just 1, and who doesn't for a 500sf studio, but oh well)

Originally posted by Account Closed:
Thanks for all your thoughts; I've voted for everyone's wholesome insight above!

So looks like I'll join the bandwagon and go by the Sec8/HUD guidelines as well for sake of simplicity until made clearer in law/practice: 1 bedroom per 2 people.

For that 1 bedroom (or studio treated as a 1 bedroom) is it 2 people total, or do 2 adults also have the right to not be discriminated against because they also have 1 toddler and want the 1 bedroom (or studio treated as a 1 bedroom)? and what about if the 2 people applying for a 1 bedroom but have 2 or 3 kids, can they be legally eliminated from lease approval because of the total # individuals for a 1 bedroom? 

I've already had lots of 2-adult plus kid(s) households applying for a studio and while not binding legal advice it would be reassuring if someone or the real estate community agrees that its okay to turn away 2 adults plus kid(s) from a studio or 1 bedroom without risking discriminatory practice. (And I really do prefer just 1, and who doesn't for a 500sf studio, but oh well)

For the purposes of number of occupants, minors count as occupants, so if you are limiting occupancy to 2 per bedroom (counting studio as a 1 bedroom), then you can deny a couple who has 1 or more kids.  So, you can allow 2 adults, or an adult with a minor, and either of those situations would meet the 2 occupant limit.  You might choose to rent to 2 minors, but I wouldn't recommend it. ;)

Not legal advice.

Neil, I believe the age limit as to a toddler is 3 years old, babies are really counted, you could have twins, 6 months old staying in mom and dad's bedroom.

You can find the HUD occupancy requirements by age, sex and sq ft, Google that. It's rather clear to me.

We had "owned properties" as the PHA and had studios, 40 I believe, and while not under section 8, the occupancy guidelines are the same.

A nice size studio could probably work for a young couple with 2 babies, like twins, but they need to know (and probably do know) they won't be there in 4 years, so they aren't going to be long term tenants.

Those studios had the highest vacancy turnover, they are fast to rent, but most don't stay 2 years anyway......unless you get the older crowd, they can be there until they are carried out.

Income is also set by HUD, 33% of qualifying income for rents, that is law for PHA or Section 8 (can vary by MSA with Sec 8) but only a basis for non-govt housing, I suppose the income discrimination stuff goes to that, I don't believe a landlord has to rent a $350 unit to someone who only makes $250, that doesn't wash. Income has to be viewed in the totality of the financial circumstances, Someone making 10K a month can pay 5K in rents, but one making 2k a month can't really pay 1K in rents, need to look at discretionary income. All RE is local. :)

Updated over 3 years ago

Babies are NOT counted, left out the "not" :)

Ok, so I just learned something.  I just googled 'hud occupancy per bedroom' to see what would come up, and I found an article that was talking about it.  But, it mentioned that some states have specific laws about occupancy:

"Some states such as California have laws that state that “2 persons plus one” is the occupancy standard that should be used."

http://petriestocking.com/blog/2013/06/24/occupanc...

Assuming this info is still current and accurate, it sounds like in CA, we have to go with the 2/bedroom + 1.  So I will amend my previous posts here to state that CA rentals likely should follow the 2+1 rule.  Not sure if the CA law specifically addresses studios and/or square footage, so that might be worth looking into.

Not legal advice.

@Bill Gulley  's example is exactly what I'm talking about, localities seem to differ on what the "tradition" or local laws, or interpretations thereof are about occupancy, which I find silly. 

Originally posted by @Kimberly T. :
  You might choose to rent to 2 minors, but I wouldn't recommend it. ;)

Not legal advice.

What about an 18 year old male with sufficient qualifying income, but has a live-in 17 year old female friend he claims is his wife and whose legal guardian is ready and willing to co-sign for the 17 year old since the 17 year old recently got married?  Would it be okay to request proof they are indeed married (the 18yo male to the 17yo female), and if they are legally married, do I still need legal guardian to cosign cause of her minor age, or does her being married to an adult suffice? Or what?

You can have up to four unrelated persons on a lease. This means you can deny an application with five roommates.

Also, you can deny an applicant based on income. If you are not comfortable with their financial stability, you don't have to rent to them. If you don't like their personality, like if they are mean, you aren't required to rent to them. My two main tenets are to find reliable tenants who aren't trouble makers. I tell ask my prospective tenants that same line. Pay on time, and don't cause trouble. And no pets.

Minors can not contract, your lease is worthless unless they are emancipated by your state law and that won't carry much water. Your legal tenant must qualify under your standard requirements and ability to pay, the can not rely on income from a minor. :) 

In the hypothetical case of the 17yo minor (married to an 18yo) whose legal guardian is ready and willing to co-sign for the 17 year old since the 17 year old recently got married, I don't feel like I want to risk discriminating and turn them away just over age, so I'm wondering if there being a legal guardian wanting to sign for her married daughter who is still a minor, the contract would then be bound to the guardian not the minor in which case perhaps I can require the guardian's finances and such, despite it being her daughter that is married to the head of household applying, not the the guardian.

Originally posted by @Bradley Bogdan :

@Bill G. As I understand them, the HUD guidelines are exactly that, guidelines for owners (even though they're rules for HUD programs). I find them clear, and I doubt (in my wholly unprofessional legal opinion) anyone would ever get in trouble following them, but they're not law, and there are quite a few odd scenarios in REI that I would find clear and the judge ended up seeing differently.

 LOL, did you skim my post or read it......I said it is law to PHA housing and the Section 8 administrators, I said it isn't for landlords. But regs carry the weight of law by various federal Acts. 

And, if you live in that dwelling renting out a studio, you don't have to follow any of the discrimination laws. There are exemptions for owner occupied, religious organizations and fraternal type organizations.

Now, some HUD rulings, regulations carry the weight of law, there are federal Acts that give HUD the authority to administer laws and make determinations and implement standards that are regulatory requirements. If you have never heard of an administrative hearing nailing some RE type, that's a good thing because you don't want to go there I'm sure. After you lose in a hearing, you can always appeal to federal court and take your chances.

BTW, I suggested going to the HUD site, federal law takes precedence over state laws. Need to be aware of both. Good luck :)

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