How Do Occupancy Standards Relate to Fair Housing Law?

Overly restrictive occupancy standards have a disproportionate impact on families with children, making it difficult for them to find suitable housing. Having such standards violates the familial status protection under fair housing law. FHCO recommends landlords use an occupancy standard of “2+1”, two persons per bedroom plus one additional person. This would mean a five occupant maximum in a two bedroom unit or a seven occupant maximum in a three bedroom. In most cases, this standard will protect landlords from discrimination complaints based on too restrictive standards. Oregon landlord tenant law states occupancy “shall not be more restrictive than two persons per bedroom and must be reasonable”…. (See ORS 90.262(3)). HUD’s message on the subject is similar, expressed in its 1997 Keating Memo and subsequent guidance. If a tenant were to file a discrimination complaint based on overly restrictive occupancy, an investigation of the unit by an enforcement body would evaluate what is a reasonable standard for the unit based on a variety of factors such as square footage, design of rooms, egress, ages of children and relevant local ordinances. Again, a 2+1 standard, which has become the norm among property management companies in Oregon, is our recommended guideline.

It is illegal for housing providers to dictate that boys and girls cannot share a bedroom or to otherwise dictate where occupants sleep in a unit.