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How many unrelated individuals may live in a rental house?

Calvin Shomaker

“No more than three unrelated people may occupy a dwelling,” according to wilmingtonnc.gov.  This is defined in Sec. 18-812 of the municipal code.

New Hanover County includes it in Sec. 23 of its zoning ordinance, under the definitions of “family” and dwelling.” However, New Hanover County commissioners and its planning staff are able to adopt ordinances accommodating the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Amended in 1988, the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing-related discrimination during the sale or rental of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origins and handicap or disability.

In December 2015, a rehabilitation residency in Wilmington was granted an ordinance allowing up to six unrelated occupants. The home’s lawyer used the Fair Housing Act to force local officials into accommodating a six-person occupancy policy for addicts recovering in the residency.

Pender County has no limitation on the number of unrelated occupants allowed to cohabit. Pender County Housing Authority director Judith Herring said occupancy limits are a contextual question between tenants and landlord.

“In Pender County, occupancy is a tenant-landlord issue unless there is an ordinance that states otherwise,” Herring said. The Fair Housing Act, which handles requests on a case by case basis, defines a family as including a single person. Herring said residents living together in Pender County do not have to be related by blood or birth to be considered family.

Brunswick County, which has no occupancy code, determines its occupancy limits by floor space per occupant. A code enforcement officer said Brunswick County requires 150 square feet of habitable floor space for each initial resident, 100 for the next three and 75 for each additional resident.

User-contributed question by:
Mark Artessa

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