More students have come to Carolina Student Legal Services for advice after increased enforcement of Chapel Hill’s controversial occupancy law have left them fearing eviction.
Chapel Hill’s occupancy rule, which allows only four unrelated people to live under one roof, has drawn criticism from the student body several students were asked to leave their homes last year after violating the law.
Chapel Hill’s occupancy limit allows only four unrelated people to live in a home together:
- January 2003: The Chapel Hill Town Council added the occupancy limit to the town’s land use management ordinance.
- November 2013: Students come forward after they were asked to leave their Northside homes for violating the rule. Student Body President Christy Lambden forms a work group to address the rule.
- February 2014: Lambden released a petition asking for students’ support in overturning the controversial occupancy rule.
- March 2014: Lambden will go before the Town Council to discuss the limit later this month.
Dorothy Bernholz, director of Carolina Student Legal Services, said the town’s crackdown on the longstanding rule has a potential ripple of negative effects throughout the entire community.
“We have been involved in this issue for a number of years,” she said. “The ordinance has been in place for a long time but recently the enforcement has increased.”
Bernholz plans to advertise more frequently the need for students to fully understand their lease before signing so no one gets evicted.
It is the inappropriate behavior of some tenants that created a need for added enforcement from the town, Bernholz said.
“The neighborhood associations do not like this behavior,” she said. “It is these particular households that create an increased enforcement of the rule even though other student living homes create no problem.”
In a statement last week, the University’s Executive Branch said it is looking to discuss changing the rule with the Chapel Hill Town Council.
Michael Adams, managing assistant for Student Body President Christy Lambden, said recent enforcement has generated student interest toward changing the rule.
“There was some concern in the town about the issue of housing with students in the community so we created a task force to look into the issue,” Adams said. “We are currently in the process of gauging student interest on the issue and there is a general consensus of support.”
Adam said Lambden plans to take this concern to the council on March 24.
Freshman Graham Treasure said the housing rule in question causes an inconvenience for the entire community.
“I don’t think we should selectively enforce laws because some tenants are not good stewards of their space,” he said. “It should be the responsibility between landlords and tenants not the responsibility of the municipal government.”
Treasure said students should voice their disapproval of the current ordinance in order to stimulate a change.
“I don’t think students should be living in fear of eviction,” he said. “I think there should be a change in the housing rule that would make it more fair and transparent.”
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