How Many People Can Live In A House? (According to Federal Law)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

Recently, I was watching Fuller House and marveled at how many Tanner-Fuller family members fit into what appeared to be a three-bedroom home in San Francisco. It got me thinking. I’ve heard of dozens of my friends living together in communes or as roommates, but I was not entirely sure how legal some of those living arrangements are. I mean, how many people can normally live in a place before it’s too much?

According to HUD Federal Occupancy Standards, a maximum of six people can live in a 3-bedroom home. A four-bedroom home can house up to eight people, and a five-bedroom can house up to ten people. The guidelines are adopted per number of beds per person. Additionally, each person should have a minimum of 165 square feet of living space.

If you have been wondering how many people can split a home together, or how many people you’re allowed to have in a house without breaking a law, it can be difficult to ascertain. However, you need to know this information. Otherwise, you might find yourself fined or even forced out of a home you bought. Don’t worry, we’ve got the scoop for you.

What’s The Maximum Family Size Your Home Can Handle?

Each city and town has its own zoning laws that dictate how many people are allowed to live in a specific home or apartment size. For the most part, though, cities tend to go for the “2 + 1 Rule.” This rule states that you can have, at most, two people per bedroom with one additional person in the living room.

So, this is what it boils down to:

  • 1 Bedroom. A 1 bedroom will be able to fit three people, at most. Most apartments will max it out at two people.
  • 2 Bedroom. A two-bedroom will be able to fit five people at most. Many apartments may only allow two people per bedroom.
  • 3 Bedroom. At most, you will be able to fit seven people in a three-bedroom apartment.

Why Are Zoning Laws So Strict On The Maximum Number Of People Per Home?

While it may seem draconian for zoning laws to limit how many people can live in a house, there’s good reason for these laws to be enacted. Having too many people under one roof can turn into a hazard. Should a fire break out in the home, having too many people could pose a risk of having people trapped inside.

Moreover, having too many people can also increase the amount of noise people nearby experience. When you factor that into how uncomfortable a cramped living situation can be, it’s easy to see why zoning laws were put into place.

How Many Bedrooms Do You Need?

While the minimum number of bedrooms you can get does offer some guidelines, let’s just be real. Most people tend to find that the minimum is going to be extremely cramped. Even if you live a minimalist life, you’re going to find that sleeping two to a room is going to be difficult.

To make things easier, it’s a good idea to follow these comfort guidelines below:

  • Children generally need their own room. While you can sleep two to a room, there will be a time when your child will want their own space. This is particularly true if you’re discussing children of the opposite sex.
  • If you want to have a home office or a gym, you will need an extra room. This can bump up your minimum room number even if you don’t have kids.
  • People who expect to take care of aging parents will need a separate room. Mom and dad need to have their own place too. This is particularly true if you know you will need medical equipment in a room.
  • Think about family expansion in mind. People who are planning an expanding family need to take that into account if they want to buy a home.

What’s The Difference Between An Occupant And A Tenant?

There are several major differences between occupants and tenants. Occupants just live in the house. They do not have a responsibility to pay rent. Tenants, on the other hand, are officially on the lease and are held legally liable for paying rent. Anyone can be an occupant, but not everyone can be a tenant.

Occupants are not held to rules that are as strict as tenants are. They also have fewer rights as a tenant. If you’re an occupant who’s not on the lease, then a landlord or tenant can evict you for virtually any reason, at any time. Being a tenant means that you will only be able to be evicted for violating lease terms or for nonpayment of rent.

At What Age Is A Child Considered A Tenant?

Children are always considered to be occupants, but they are almost never considered to be tenants. A child only becomes a tenant of the house or apartment they live in when they turn 18. Prior to that, they have no responsibility to pay rent since it’s their parents’ jobs to do so. The only exception deals with legally emancipated minors.

With that said, most landlords will not require parents to sign their children onto the lease as a tenant. It’s just considered to be a bit crass.

What Happens If More People Live In A Home Than The Law Allows?

The penalties that can occur if you exceed the maximum occupancy can vary greatly. The most obvious issue you may deal with is an angry landlord who may try to evict you. However, even homeowners can feel the burn. Some cities may revoke your certificate of occupancy, impose fines, or (in the case of children) call CPS.

Another big issue you may deal with is your insurance. Most (if not all) home insurance companies will want nothing to do with a renter or homeowner who exceeded the occupancy limit. They view this as reckless behavior, which in turn, disqualifies people from getting coverage. This can also affect your ability to stay in good graces with your mortgage lender.

Can An HOA Expel You If Your Family Exceeds Maximum Occupancy Limits?

Along with having insurance issues and municipal issues, exceeding your home’s maximum occupancy limit can draw the ire of another organization: the local HOA. Believe it or not, your homeowners’ association wields a lot more power than just doling out fees, fines, and angry letters.

If your HOA decides that you are a major liability or nuisance, they have the right to ask you to vacate your home by placing a lien on your home. If you don’t pay the fees and fines, they can eventually foreclose on you much like a bank could.

Can A Landlord Limit The Number Of Tenants In A Unit?

Although the 2+1 rule tends to be the guideline, landlords are allowed to set their own limits on how many people can live in an apartment. However, the following have to be true:

  • The landlord has to be following all state and local guidelines. If their decree discriminates against having a family or involves discrimination against people of certain races, it won’t be legally enforceable. On the other hand, if the guidelines they have are similar to the state’s laws, then they are highly enforceable.
  • They still have to abide by maximum limits according to the municipality. If a municipality says that you can only have two per bedroom, then the landlord can’t allow a maximum of three. This technically goes against the law.
  • Pet policies are totally up to the landlord. If no pets are allowed, so be it. It’s the landlord’s decision. It’s also up to the landlord to decide whether they want to charge a pet rent, or if they want to demand renters’ insurance as part of the deal.

Related Questions

What is the minimum bedroom size for a bedroom?

Generally speaking, the minimum bedroom size should be 400 square feet for a person over the age of 12 years old and 200 square feet for someone above the age of 12. This is what most districts consider to be the bare minimum for a home’s valuation and designation of space. However, you will need to see your local office’s bare minimum measurements for a bedroom.

How many square feet do I need to in my home?

On average, a person needs a minimum of 100 to 400 square feet in order to feel comfortable. Current HUD guidelines suggest that a person will need a minimum of 165 square feet in a bedroom in order to be comfortable. If you have a bedroom that’s 320 square feet or so, then you will be able to comfortably fit at two people. A smaller room will only fit one adult.

How many people can live in a studio apartment?

If you live in a studio apartment, then you should be able to legally fit two people in that apartment. However, individual landlords may have a maximum of one person per studio apartment depending on the size of the room. It’s best to take a look at the landlord’s requirements before you make an official decision to move there.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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