Code volation

14 Replies

Hi BP, 

I'm quite new to the real estate and rental world. Last year, I purchase my first rental townhouse and I split the master-bedroom into two rooms and rent out to student. But I recently got a phone call for the city saying that I may violate the building code and the occupancy maybe too high (they said that the unit max person allow in the unit is 4, I have 6 students living in the unit). We situation a time next week for them to come take a look. 

Has anyone dealt with a situation like this and will the city force me to reduce the number of occupancy? Because most of my tenants were under 1 years contact. What should I do? Please help. 

Thanks for all your comment in advance!


a CALL? thats weird, i would think they'd just show up and try to inspect and if nobody answer then leave notice and/or try calling owner on record to make appt

adding an extra room or even erecting a wall tends to require a permit first & inspection upon completion. 6 students crammed in a what, 1 bedroom unit? yikes! 

i've heard the HUD golden standard/guideline is 2+1 max persons total per bedroom (2 in bedroom area and 1 outside bedroom, max) to me that's too much (2/3 in a 1 bedroom or 5 (or 6?) in a 2 bedroom)

perhaps u can try finding the extra students new rooms for rent? meanwhile u work with the city (Irvine?) towards a resolution of the violations claimed

hopefully lesson learned- never enter 1 year lease for 'rooming'! if anything, rooming like that should be short term arrangement only

Hi Neil, 

Thanks for your prompt reply and all the tips.  

Actually, it is a 3 bed 3 bath condo, the masterbed is too big (approx 350sqt) so we turn it into two room. It is not that crowded as you may thought. 

But next time before we do these similar renovations (add rooms, toliet...etc) where is the best place to go ask/ or find out what could I do and what could not?  I went to city's buildibg and safety board but they need drawing in order to tell me but nobody will provide drawing for these kind of renovation. 

Originally posted by @Johnny Yeung :

Hi Neil, 

Thanks for your prompt reply and all the tips.  

Actually, it is a 3 bed 3 bath condo, the masterbed is too big (approx 350sqt) so we turn it into two room. It is not that crowded as you may thought. 

 The issue must be the permit and work you did to the master bedroom, not the number of students in the unit - because the normal occupancy limit is 2 people per bedroom plus 1.  So in a 3 bedroom unit, that would be 7 people.

If the building department won't just tell you what you can do, then you'll have to ask a contractor, I guess.   Or look up the relevant codes yourself.  

In Cedar Rapids you can't have more than 5 unrelated individuals in a house no matter how many bedrooms it has.  Maybe that's the issue.?

My guess is one of the owner occupants of the other townhomes called the city.  If you have six unrelated people living in one unit, you probably have six vehicles parked there.  When friends visit, you might have nine or ten cars taking up too much space in the parking lot.  If I lived there, I'd look for a reason to stop the madness.  Looks like they found a way.

Locally, there was a case a few months ago where a resident in a small condo community shot and killed three people in another unit over a parking space dispute.  And this was in a very good neighborhood.  It's not nice to overcrowd a property.

Have the students say they are a big Gay/Lesbian family. If you are convincing enough, that should have the code enforcement department handling the situation with kid gloves

Well, there will not be more than 3 cars in the units (usually 2 and they are in the garage) , i controlled very tightly and the unit is not amazingly overcrowded. But lesson learned and now my contractor will help dealing with the city and hope we can find a solution. 

Thanks for all your comments! It is amazing forums.    

@Johnny Yeung let us know how it turns out and what the actual violation was.  It may be if the contractor didn't pull permits for the work that the city still thinks that it is a 2BR in which case six people would be too many.  It may just take some money for permits, inspections, and penalties to get it sorted out.

I think your problem is a zoning problem. The property is probably zoned as single family. The zoning definition for what constitutes a "single family" then comes into play, and it will often have a limit on how many unrelated persons may occupy a single family unit. In my area, it is not uncommon to have a three unrelated persons limit, and there is at least one town that has a limit of two unrelated persons maximum - and this has nothing to do with the (2x number of bedrooms) + 1 formula. There was a movie called "Animal House" - crazy frathouse  behavior - that is one explanation. Another explanation is to discourage brothels. 

I received the ticket from the city and I think zoning and license both factor in to the violation. I'm going to meet with the city next week, hopefully I can find out a little bit more to share.

Thanks for keeping us updated, Johnny.  It's always helpful to read and learn about various landlording situations.

I met with the city and steve is right. The main issue is zoning which the max people is cap at a rate no matter how many rooms here are. The city did not come down too hard for me, just want me to apply all the permits required. I have to rethink my strategy but the zoning is definitely the things to look out if you plan to rent the unit to multiple individuals. 

Johnny, if I had a 7-bedroom house in Irvine, CA with 4 baths, how many un-related people can live in the house?  It is 4,000 sq. feet.  Thank you.

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