August 30, 2002

Mr. Dale Hurst, City Administrator
City of Lenoir City, Tennessee
600 East Broadway, P.O. Box 445
Lenoir City, Tennessee 37771

Re: Housing Occupancy Limitations

Dear Mr. Hurst

You have asked MTAS to prepare an ordinance that limits the number of occupants for a single housing residence. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that laws that limit the occupancy for residential units are unconstitutional. There are, however, some steps that your city can take that will effectively address your safety and health concerns without imposing a limit to the number of occupants.

Since your city adopted the Standard Housing Code, many of your concerns can be effectively addressed under the provisions of that code. I believe you all should reinstate the penalty clause that was deleted when the code was adopted and add the following requirements:

(a) At least one (1) room in the dwelling shall contain not less than one hundred fifty (150) square feet.
(b) A kitchen-dining room combination, if any, shall be not less than one hundred (100) square feet.
(c) A first bedroom, if any, shall be not less than one hundred (100) square feet.
(d) A second bedroom, if any, shall be not less than seventy (70) square feet.
(e) There shall be at least seventy (70) square feet in each habitable room.
(f) There shall be at least one hundred fifty (150) square feet of floor space in habitable rooms for the first occupant in each dwelling unit; at least on hundred (100) square feet for each of the next three (3) occupants; and at least fifty (50) square feet for each additional occupant over the number of four (4). (Children one (1) year of age and under shall not be counted).
(g) There shall be at least eighty (80) square feet of bedroom floor space for the first occupant; at least twenty (20) square feet for the second occupant; and at least thirty (30) square feet for each occupant over the number of two (2). (Children one (1) year of age and under shall not be counted).
(h) Those habitable rooms which must be included to meet the foregoing minimum space requirements shall be at least seven (7) feet wide in any part with at least one-half () of the floor area having a ceiling height of at least seven (7) feet. That portion of any room where the ceiling height is less than five (5) feet shall not be considered as part of the required floor area.
(i) No basement shall be used as a habitable room or housing unit unless: (1) The floor and walls are impervious to leakage of underground and surface runoff water and are insulated against dampness and condensation. (2) The total window area in each room is equal to at least the window area sizes prescribed for habitable rooms. (3) Such required window area is located entirely above the grade of the ground adjoining such window area unless provided with adequate window wells. (4) The total of operable window area in each room is equal to at least the area prescribed herein for habitable rooms, except where there is supplied some other device affording adequate ventilation and approved by the inspector.
(j) Toilet and bathing facilities shall be enclosed.
(k) There shall be no holes or excessive cracks in walls, ceilings, outside doors or outside windows.
(l) Access shall be provided to all rooms within a dwelling unit without passing through a public space.
(m) Doors shall be provided at all doorways leading to bedrooms, toilet rooms, and bathrooms and all rooms adjoining a public space.
(n) All doors providing access to any living unit shall have operable locks, and the owner shall provide a change of locks or keys for new tenants.
(o) All doors opening to the outside shall be reasonably weather tight.
(p) There shall be installed in every dwelling unit an operable smoke detector or alarm. The code requires a number of square feet for all sleeping areas per person and a number of square feet per person per unit.

I recommend that you add requirements for a water closet, hand lavatory and bath facilities along the following guidelines: At least one (1) water closet, lavatory basin, and bathtub or shower, properly connected to an approved water and sewer system and in good working condition, shall be supplied for each four (4) rooming units within a rooming house wherever such facilities are shared. All such facilities shall be located within the residence building served and shall be directly accessible from a common hall or passageway and shall be not more than one (1) story removed from any of the persons sharing such facilities. Every lavatory basin and bathtub or shower shall be supplied with hot and cold water at all times. Such required facilities shall not be located in a cellar.

The health and safety issues associated with occupancy levels can effectively be addressed with your housing code along with these recommendations.

Please let me know if I need to draft an ordinance that makes these changes.


Ron Darden
Municipal Management Consultant