Occupancy Zoning Ordinances

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How Many People Can Live in a Rental Unit?

We have some information that will help you determine the answers for your situation in three easy steps.

1) Find out what your rental unit is zoned

by going to the City Assessor's page and doing a property search by address: http://www.amesassessor.org/pmc/

2) Now that you know your zoning classification, you must review the rules for occupancy

Zoning Classification Codes

  • RL - Residential Low Density Zone
  • RM - Residential Medium Density Zone
  • RH - Residential High Density Zone
  • UCRM - Urban Core Residential Medium Density Zone

*Definitions of these zoning classifications can be found in the Overview of the Municipal Code below.

An overview of the maximum occupancy definitions of Zoning terms

  • Dwelling Unit - Any house, apartment, mobile home, etc.
  • Family - For a definition of family, click here.
  • Living Space - Areas in a dwelling unit that are livable space. This does not include closets, crawl spaces, and other storage areas.

(1) Every unit must provide living space totaling at least 80 square-feet for the first occupant and 60 square-feet for each additional occupant.

(2) RL and UCRM zoning districts - Single family and two-family dwellings In all single family and two-family dwellings in the RL and UCRM zoning districts, the maximum occupancy of a dwelling unit will be one family. Definition of family.

(3) RH and RM zoning Districts - Single family and Two-Family Dwellings

In all single family and two-family dwellings in the RH and RM zoning districts, the maximum occupancy of a dwelling unit will be either:

(a) one family; or

(b) one more person than the number of bedrooms, up to five people, provided there is one parking space per bedroom for units with two bedrooms or more, or in University Impacted areas 1.25 parking spaces per bedroom in units with two or more bedrooms, and one-bedroom units will have 1.5 parking spaces per unit.

(4) RH and RM zoning districts - Existing Apartments
(a) In all existing apartment buildings (with 3 or more units) with a building permit date on or before May 1, 2000, in the RH and RM zoning districts, the maximum occupancy of a dwelling unit will be either:
(i) one family; or

(ii) one more person than the number of bedrooms; up to five people. This applies as long as there is one parking space per bedroom for units with two bedrooms or more, or in University Impacted areas 1.25 parking spaces per bedroom in units with two or more bedrooms, and one bedroom units will have 1.5 parking spaces per unit.

(b) Dwelling units that, as of May 1, 2000, had a current Letter of Compliance stating an occupancy limit greater than the stated zoning classification will be allowed to continue living in the unit until the Letter of Compliance is negated by a change of use or conditions in the property that would restrict the number of occupants.
(5) All zoning districts other than RH and RM - Existing Apartments

In all existing apartment buildings (with 3 or more units) with a building permit date before May 1, 2000, the maximum occupancy of a dwelling unit will be one family.

(6) RH and RM Districts - New Apartment Buildings

In all single family and two-family homes in the RH and RM zoning districts, the maximum occupancy of a dwelling unit will be either:

(a) one family; or

(b) one more person than the number of bedrooms, up to five people, provided there is one parking space per bedroom for units with two bedrooms or more, or in University Impacted areas 1.25 parking spaces per bedroom in units with two or more bedrooms, and one bedroom units will have 1.5 parking spaces per unit.

3) Define a "family," as found in Municipal Code Sec. 29.201(72).

Family: A person living alone, or any of the following groups living together as a single nonprofit housekeeping unit and sharing common living, sleeping, cooking, and eating facilities:
(a) Any number of people related by blood, marriage, adoption, guardianship or other duly-authorized custodial relationship;

(b) Three unrelated people;

(c) Two unrelated people and any children related to either of them;

(d) Not more than eight people who are:

(i) Residents of a "Family Home" as defined in Section 414.22 of the Iowa code; or
(ii) "Handicapped" as defined in the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 3602 (h).

This definition does not include those persons currently illegally using or addicted to a "controlled substance" as defined in the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. Section 802 (6).

(e) No more than five people who are granted a Special Use Permit as a single nonprofit housekeeping unit (a "functional family") pursuant to Section 29.1503(4)(d) of the Municipal Code of the City of Ames, Iowa.

(i) Exceptions - The definition of a "Family" does not include:
a. Any society, club, fraternity, sorority, association, lodge, combine, federation, coterie, or like organization;
b. Any group of individuals whose association is temporary or seasonal in nature; and
c. Any group of individuals who are in a group living arrangement as a result of criminal offenses.