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It's time to update your occupancy standards

Posted by on August 15th, 2016


In 1991 the Housing and Urban Development office (HUD), issued a memorandum on occupancy standards in rental housing. These discriminatory standards are those used to determine discriminatory effect of occupancy policies for families with children under the age of 18.

The memo, called the Keating memorandum, spelled out that HUD would consider two persons per bedroom a reasonable standard, except in cases that were not reasonable.

In other words, the government said in most cases it would be OK to limit the number of occupants in an apartment or rental unit two per bedroom. So in a studio or a one bedroom, if there are children under the age of 18 in the household, a landlord must allow two. In a two bedroom four occupants, a four bedroom eight occupants, etc.

Over the years, there's been case law on several situations where two per bedroom was not a high enough occupancy standard. Examples include an urban area like Chicago with high rents, courts have determined that three people in a one bedroom, when one of them is a child, is reasonable. Additionally, courts have generally ruled that a small child is a reasonable add on in any situation.  For instance, if a family of five applied for a two bedroom, and there was an infant as part of the family, an occupancy standard of four would be discriminatory. 

So, to err on the side of caution attorneys and the UAA have for years, been advising people to have occupancy standards that we call the two + one standard.  That means in a one bedroom we allow three occupants, a two bedroom we allow five occupants, a three-bedroom we allow seven occupants, etc.

Remember the standards only apply to households that have children under the age of 18. It's still fine in student housing to say no more than four unrelated single adults. 

It would still be OK in a studio apartment to say only one person allowed unless there's children under the age of 18 in the household – in that case we allow three total occupants. 

There are still many people who have the standard of two persons per bedroom. Because of recent lawsuits in Indiana and other places that our industry is losing, it's time now in Utah for everyone to change their standards.

Everyone now needs to go to the two + one standard. The reason for this is that our national groups are suing landlord's and testing landlords on this issue. So you may receive a phone call or someone may go to your website online. If they find you still have the two per bedroom criteria, they will file a lawsuit against you and probably win a fair housing complaint. 

So transition now to the New World. Change your standard to the two + one standard for all of your units. You will avoid trouble this way.  


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