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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill enforces tenant limits for off-campus houses

Students kicked out for violating

Living with more than three friends might not be the party it seems — especially when town law requires one of you to move out.

Junior Winn Wright said goodbye to three roommates Monday after they moved out as a result of Chapel Hill’s Land Use Management Ordinance.

The ordinance forbids homes that are classified, built and zoned as single family dwelling units from being occupied by more than four people who are not related by blood, marriage or a domestic partnership.

For every day after receiving notice that more than four people remain in the house, the town can collect a $100 fine. Both the tenants and rental management company can be held liable.

After receiving a “huge rash of complaints,” Chapel Hill Senior Code Enforcement Officer Chelsea Laws said she is going to strictly enforce the law.

“This job is basically complaint-driven,” she said. “I’m not telling anybody to be low-key, but if there’s a reason to complain, I’ll get a complaint.

“When I get a complaint, I am going to follow through.”

Wright moved into his six-bedroom home in May with six other roommates, though only four tenants were listed on the lease.

In September, Wright and his roommates received a letter from the town demanding three move out. The four tenants named in the lease remain in the house while the three other occupants moved out Monday.

Wright and his roommates didn’t have to pay fines because their landlords appealed the action taken against them. And while Wright’s landlords adjusted the rent so each tenant isn’t paying more, not all students are so lucky.

“(Renters are) facing a contractual obligation with the landlord. You shouldn’t obligate yourselves to these large rents with the hopes of saving money,” said Dorothy Bernholz, director of UNC Student Legal Services.

Laws said the town is currently managing three reported cases of over-occupancy. She said the most common reasons for complaints are cars parked in the front yard or street, loud noise and tenants not following trash guidelines.

“I would like to encourage people before they sign the lease to please, please bring it in and let us talk to you,” Bernholz said.

Daniel Lawler and his mother Leslie manage Wright’s house on Patterson Place near the FedEx Global Education Center.

After losing the appeal to the town to let all seven students finish out the lease, they’ve lost $1,600 in rent per month. They’ve contracted a lease for the fall for only four residents to the six-bedroom house.

Daniel Lawler said they were considering purchasing more properties to renovate and rent, but they’re now reconsidering, particularly any homes with more than four bedrooms.

“I didn’t know that it would not be okay to have permitted occupants,” Leslie Lawler said. “If we had known it would have been such a problem, we absolutely would not have done it.”

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