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Occupancy Policies

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that an occupancy policy of two persons in a bedroom, as a general rule may be reasonable if the design and square footage of the sleeping areas meets local occupancy codes and is not overly restrictive. The reasonableness of any occupancy policy is disputable, and each case may be evaluated individually and also be based on factors such as the configuration of the unit (e.g. the presence of a den or small extra room), the overall size of the dwelling, the capacity of septic, sewer or other building systems or the existence of state or local zoning laws. If a landlord or property manager restricts occupancy to just one person per bedroom in a rental unit, this policy may have a negative effect on families with children, and may be considered discriminatory. 

Overly restrictive occupancy policies may violate the Fair Housing Act by having a disproportionate impact on families with children. Each rental unit needs to be considered individually, taking into consideration its layout, square footage, and code requirements such as existing means of egress (required exits for living and sleeping areas).

Most municipalities follow the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC1). Section 404.4.1 of the 2021 IPMC establishes that every bedroom must contain at least 70 square feet of floor area and every bedroom occupied by more than one person must contain at least 50 square feet for each occupant. Following the guidelines of the 2021 IPMC a “2 person per bedroom” limitation may or may not be reasonable depending on the size of the bedroom.

If you live in Philadelphia, Southeast Pennsylvania or the Lehigh Valley and have questions about familial status discrimination in housing, contact info@equalhousing.org, 866-540-FAIR or contact us.

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