Dan Beckwith of Kennesaw was denied a request by the Cobb County Planning Commission earlier this week to allow his three tenants, who began renting last summer, to remain in the home until July 2014.
Under county ordinance, only two unrelated adults can live in a home regardless of the number of bedrooms.
Rob Hosack, director of the Cobb County Community Development Agency, says the rule was created to target older homes in south Cobb where multiple individuals lived in small spaces.
Beckwith was given a notice of violation after a neighbor complained about the number of cars in the driveway, and he appeared before the planning commission Monday to request a temporary exemption to allow his tenants attending Kennesaw State University to remain in the home for another year.
He wasn’t aware of the ordinance and says it is overreaching.
“A lot of the laws, in my opinion, they don’t make sense,” Beckwith said. “How can you have anybody obey a law that doesn’t make sense?”
Chris Norris, Realtor and owner of the Marietta-based Jackson and King Agency, agrees.
“Two seems fairly restrictive to me,” Norris said.
Though the mandate may not have intended to target college students, that’s what it does, Norris said, because younger renters are more likely to share a home with multiple friends.
“It certainly becomes less common as people get older,” Norris said.
Norris had to turn down potential tenants recently who wanted to rent a three bedroom home between five residents. Many homeowners who rent properties aren’t aware of the ordinance, but because Norris is a licensed Realtor, he said he can’t take chances.
“Your best chance is going to be to find somebody that’s got a rent by owner sign out there and is unaware of the law,” Norris said he told the tenants he turned away.
There’s no requirement for private landlords to register with the county so enforcement is spotty and mostly driven by complaints.
“Half of the complaints that we get, and we don’t get a lot, are up near KSU,” Hosack said.
If landlords find themselves in violation, there are multiple chances to correct the situation before facing a fine in magistrate court. Hosack said fines for first offenses are about $175.
Complying with the rule by moving all tenants except two from the home or appealing the violation with the planning commission will keep the landlord from receiving a fine. If the commission denies the request, extra tenants still have to be removed.
Norris maintains the rule disproportionately affects younger renters and could prevent Cobb County from attracting young adults.
“I’d like to see the city (of Marietta) and county attract more younger people,” Norris said.
Both say they understand the reasoning behind the ordinance but believe it is too strict.
Norris says three residents would be a more manageable amount. Beckwith puts that number at four.
“We weren’t trying to turn (the house) into a frat house,” Beckwith said. “We were just looking for an extension on the lease.”