I plan to purchase a single family home and rent it out to university students. Originally, it was expected that there would be one student per room (as communal areas would be sized according to how many rooms there are); however, some students expressing interest in renting have mentioned that they'd like their significant other to also live with them.

This presents a slight problem to my system. The house is meant for X amount of people, where there would now be Z amount. Utility usage would increase; additional space would be used to accommodate their possessions; also, it would increase liability on my end.

I wouldn't mind this situation if I'm making up for it in additional income. To reasonable limits of course. Five people in a tiny room would be quite silly.


For the purposes of this question, consider only the actual act of charging the tenants extra simply for adding another person to the room. I’m not concerned with zoning and other occupancy restrictions.


I have been referencing Title 42 of US Code (USC) under chapter 45.

"Sec. §3604.a" states that it is unlawful:

To refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.

What I'm reading from this, is that I cannot alter (increase) my proposed baseline rate once I'm aware of an individual having familial status.

"Sec. §3602.k" says:

"Familial status" means one or more individuals (who have not attained the age of 18 years) being domiciled with

  1. a parent or another person having legal custody of such individual or individuals


  2. the designee of such parent or other person having such custody, with the written permission of such parent or other person.

Here looks like the sole definition of familial status; but I'm not quite sure if its only a contextual fragment; meaning there might be other ways of interpreting what that status might be.


It seems that familial status only applies to parents who are in custody of a minor.

Is that really the case? Do spouses, significant others, or other familiar relationships not matter? Are there states that tack on additional discrimination criteria?

Am I able to charge my tenants an extra fee for adding another resident to the their room and subsequently my property?

  • 2
    Rentals are usually highly regulated by state, and sometime local, law. You'll have to be more specific than "United States". Also keep in mind that your certificate of occupancy, zoning laws, etc, may place additional restrictions on how many people can live in the house. Jan 17, 2019 at 3:42
  • @NateEldredge Thanks Nate. See my edits. The main focus appears to be on The Fair Housing Act (FHA). I’m not too concerned with other regulations. I just want to know if the transaction alteration itself would be lawful.
    – Anilla
    Jan 17, 2019 at 3:53
  • @NateEldredge Would definitions like these actually change in state and local regions? Could federally written terms be altered by different jurisdictions?
    – Anilla
    Jan 17, 2019 at 4:02
  • 1
    It wouldn't "alter" them. Federal law says "you may not discriminate on the basis of X,Y,Z", but it does not say "you may discriminate on any other basis". The state certainly has the power to additionally forbid discrimination on the basis of A,B,C, and this would not at all conflict with the federal law. There's that whole Tenth Amendment thing. Jan 17, 2019 at 4:05
  • The fair housing act is not particularly relevant to this. You need to look at the landlord/tenant law in your state, which governs the contractual relationship between landlords and tenants. The fair housing act prohibits discrimination and says nothing about rent or other contractual matters.
    – phoog
    Jan 17, 2019 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


Your actual inquiry boils down to the statutory interpretation of the aforementioned excerpts. A surcharge for additional roommates does not violate these statutes, since "being domiciled with" does not mean and does not imply "living in the same bedroom".

Your knowledge that "X is Y'parent" is not discouraging you from renting your unit to them. In fact, I gather that you would gladly allow each one to rent their own separate bedroom (that is, one room per individual) if you have enough rooms available. This means that you are neither refusing to rent nor refusing to reasonably negotiate rental on the basis of familial status.

Here, you are simply requiring a surcharge in exchange of accommodating tenants' (X and Y) convenience of sharing a bedroom. The reasons you outline for the surcharge (utilities, etc.) truly make sense.

A similar reasoning applies to the other protected classes that are listed in the aforementioned statutes.

  • So within my rental agreement I can charge based on those dominciled within the property? Or somehow I’d make it a surcharge for the initial tenant to add on another resident as a sort of ‘convenience’ fee? Where can I find the codes for my state that describe my abilities?
    – Anilla
    Jan 17, 2019 at 17:47
  • 1
    @LaAnilla My point is that it is lawful (pursuant to the statutes you mention) to apply a surcharge for each additional person in a bedroom. The Michigan Landlord and Tenant Relationships do not seem to prohibit surcharges as the one you intend. My former landlord (an apartment complex) in Michigan also applied a surcharge for that. Jan 18, 2019 at 1:25

It's a private agreement. The law cannot deprive either party of liberty to do what they want (if the agreement doesn't restrict it) without due process of law.

If you've already made the agreement without restricting guests, there's probably very little you can do until the lease period is up (and you rewrite it). This is the cost of long lease periods for landlords to have revenue security.

  • What's with the downvotes? The Bill of Rights does cannot deprive an individual the basic right to live without "due process of law". Jan 1 at 18:53
  • 1
    "Due process" means that there has to be a law, as opposed to an arbitrary decision by a ruler. If it is the law in that state that rent cannot be based on number of tenants, that is the end of the discussion and the tenant's "rights" have thus been defined one way by the law. Your appeal to due process is thus entirely misplaced.
    – user6726
    Jan 1 at 19:50
  • @user6726: You are confused. The "discussion" doesn't end when the law is passed. The Court, for example, still can interpret the law or even THROW IT OUT. How's that for discussion? Jan 1 at 20:02

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