“Brothel Rule” & Real Estate Sales.

blue-lightsMonday morning I read a headline that caught my attention. It had to do with a little known ‘rule’ that has to do with how many unrelated people can live in a single family home. I say “little known rule” because I’d guess 90% of the folks that ask me to find Downtown investment property for them are unaware before we get started.

Many times the conversation goes like this: Buyer – “Hey, Franklin. I’d like for you to start looking for a house I can buy for my son and a few of his friends to live in.” Me – “No problem! Has anyone ever told you about the rule we have here about more than three occupants with different last names?” Buyer – “No. What do you mean?” Me – “Well, that’s just it. You can’t have more than three unrelated adults living in the same house. Are two of them brothers, by chance?” Buyer – “No.” Me – “Most folks don’t know about all of this. Some people call it ‘the Brothel Rule’. Would you/they be interested in a duplex?” Buyer – “I don’t know, I haven’t even thought of that.”

In the situation above, I go on to tell them they are certainly welcome to buy a house with the intention of renting every bedroom, but they would be rolling the dice. I tell them that they can “go for it,” but if a neighbor tattles on them there will be a police officer knocking on the door super early in the morning (sometimes with blue lights flashing) to tell them that one or more of the occupants will have to move out, per zoning laws. “What if there are 5 bedrooms, or 6?” buyers often ask. Answer: doesn’t matter – if its zoned single family residence… that’s the rule.

Taking the conversation a step further: Buyer – “Ok, what all does that mean and why?” Me – “Well, if you think on it a minute, if your mortgage vs rent ratio figures are tight and you end up with $500 less than you anticipated every month per the law, you’re now losing and can’t do anything about it. Now, if you need the tax deduction or if your son or daughter gets in-state tuition because of the purchase, that’s a strategy, but just know that if a neighbor tells on you, you may be stuck until you sell.”

Yet another step further: Buyer – “Why would anyone be an a** and tell on a neighbor like that? Isn’t this good for the economy and all that?” Me – “I don’t mean to be crass, but think of this. If you have four college kids living in a house together how many cars does that equal?” Buyer – “Four?” Me – “Eight.” They all have girlfriends or boyfriends and this becomes an uncomfy situation for the neighbors because 6, 7, or 8 cars end up parked on the street.” Buyer – “Oh.” The argument gets even tighter when you think about emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks navigating through Shandon and Rosewood.

Anyway, the article hit home with me as I could type about it for hours, and I know many property owners that bought an “investment house” that are now stuck because no one told them about the zoning rule. If you have any questions about it, give me a call at 803-447-8683 or email franklin@FArealtygroup.com . I’d love to talk with you about it.

This is a good example that all real estate is hyper local.

Below is the article.

Thank you!

Franklin Jones

Columbia zoning board denies Olympia house ‘rooming house’ status


sellis@thestate.comDecember 9, 2014 Updated 1 hour ago

Kurt Rayburg requested that the city designate his house at 816 Whaley St. as a rooming house so he can continue to rent it to five college students, as the house has been used for many years before he bought it, Rayburg said. Columbia zoning laws prohibit more than three unrelated adults from living in a single-family residence. SARAH ELLIS — sellis@thestate.com

A Whaley Street house in a neighborhood heavily occupied by University of South Carolina students cannot continue to be rented to more than three unrelated students as it has been illegally for years.

Columbia zoning laws prohibit more than three unrelated adults from living together in a single-family home, a rule that can be difficult to enforce and one that Kurt Rayburg said he was unaware of when he purchased the house at 816 Whaley St. in January.

The city Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday denied Rayburg’s request to grant the house special exception as a rooming house, which would have allowed him to continue renting the five-bedroom house to more than three people, as owners before him had done for some 20 years, he said.

Board members and community members opposed the exception, saying that the character of student housing areas includes issues such as noise, litter and parking congestion that single-family neighborhoods don’t want to deal with.

Five male students are currently renting Rayburg’s house, in the Whaley Street neighborhood near the USC campus and other student rental homes and apartments. Rayburg told the board that come June, he plans to transfer the lease to his daughter, a USC student, and four of her friends.

“It’s not going to set a (precedent) for other places that will apply for this because it’s a special exception. It’s taken one at a time,” Rayburg told the board. “I think a lot of the past activities (at the house) are what’s kind of prejudicing everyone in this decision for a special exception because there has been some bad history.”

Neighbors acknowledged that behavior by the house’s tenants had markedly improved since Rayburg took ownership. But board members were reluctant to grant his exception because they worried that under the house’s future ownership, the number and behavior of potential tenants would adversely affect the interest of the historic neighborhood.

Five people from several downtown neighborhoods spoke in opposition to Rayburg’s request. Kathryn Fenner, neighborhood association vice president for University Hill, which sits between campus and Five Points, said rooming houses do not make appropriate neighbors in single-family neighborhoods. Granting one exception, she said, would open the floodgates for others.

“If this had not been a problem property, nobody would have known” it was exceeding the occupancy rule, Fenner said. “I think this is going to discourage homeownership, which is something the city has consistently said is a great idea. … I don’t think any of you would want to buy a property next to a rooming house.”

Rayburg said that without the rooming house exception, he plans to spend more than $30,000 to convert the house into a duplex, which will allow him to rent it to up to six unrelated people.

Zoning board chairman Ernest Cromartie asked the city zoning staff to be understanding of the fact that Rayburg has current tenants living in the house and that he took steps to make the situation right.

Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2014/12/09/3864212_columbia-zoning-board-denies-olympia.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy


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