Clarifying the Brookings city living ordinance

Erik Ebsen

Erik Ebsen

A Brookings city living ordinance allows up to three unrelated adults to live in a single dwelling. So, a student living with more than two friends is living illegally, right?

That’s probably not the case.

The ordinance states that a single dwelling can legally house up to three unrelated tenants. But some houses are zoned to accommodate multiple people, says City Attorney Steve Britzman.

He said city zoning actually determines the number of tenants allowed to live in a single building or home.

The city considers a duplex two dwellings. This allows three unrelated tenants each. Every apartment within an apartment complex constitutes one dwelling each.

Classifying a home as a boarding house allows more than three tenants to move in.

Landlords know how their property is zoned, said Mildred K. Hugghins, co-owner of Skylight Apartments in Brookings. She said leasing more than three adult tenants in a singe dwelling requires applying for a variance. The variance would change a house’s classification, from single dwelling to boarding house, for example.

Students believed different things about the ordinance. Most understood the three-unrelated-people limit, but attributed it to different reasons.

“You can only have three people (that aren’t related to you) in a house in Brookings, unless you have more than one kitchen or something, then you can have more,” said pharmacy major Will Freiberg.

“I know that the most people you can have in a house is three or, if you are in a duplex, it is six,” said third-year student Zach Anderson.

“The number of bedrooms available in the house with legal fire escapes, determines the actual capacity of people that can live in the house,” said biology major Lindsey Krieger.

If tenants are related, the city considers them a family unit, said Britzman. Families follow separate guidelines under the ordinance.

Students gave different reasons for why they believed the ordinance existed.

Pierson Hall resident Erica Johnson thought it might “deter parties by having fewer people in a house.”

Not having the ordinance “would probably raise the rent of most places around town ? without it 10 people could live in a two-bedroom place,” said Iowa native Matt Anderson.

The zoning ordinance exists for safety reasons, Britzman says. With too many people living in too small a space, hazards like fires could pose even more danger. He said crowded housing can cause problems with neighbors.

The city ordinance says nothing about tenants of the opposite sex living together.

“Gender isn’t mentioned,” said Britzman.

He says the city doesn’t care whether a person decides to live with a male or a female, as long as the place isn’t overcrowded.