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Definition of Family and Zoning Restrictions

August 24th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

The recent case of Armstrong v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 2009 WL 217867, expanded the definition of  “single housekeeping unit” to include an apartment with four bedrooms  and a common area with kitchen and bath facilities shared by 4 unrelated people, each of whom had a separate lease with the developer. The apartment building was made up of 26 four-bedroom suites.  The City contended that the apartments in the building were rooming units but because the ordinance did not have a strict definition of what constituted a single housekeeping unit, the court did not agree.  The code provided that a dwelling unit may not be occupied by more than one family.  A family was defined as no more than four unrelated individuals who live together.   None of the tenants had access to each other’s bedroom.  It seems to me that the lack of a clear definition of what constituted a “single housekeeping unit” led the court to make its decision.  It highlights how important definitions can be in zoning ordinances.   I had a case where the landlord chopped up a single family home into 3 units with a common kitchen.  Thankfully, the code was clear enough that he was forced to return the home to its single family character after his appeal was denied. Unless a local government doesn’t mind this type of result, it may want to check the definitions in its zoning code.

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  1. Tom Fiore
    August 26th, 2009 at 09:09 | #1

    Interesting article, just found your website today from reference from NYSBOC. I have a similar situation where a landlord had converted a building to two apartments and an office building without permits. When presented with notice of violation he attempted to say it was one apt.leased to one indivdual who had several friends living there. It had two kitchens,two baths,and were on two seperate floors with lockouts to each floor.The property does not meet zoning requirements for three units.

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