Code Compliance

CONTACT INFORMATION: Code Compliance is open 8AM - 4PM Mon-Thurs and 9:15AM - 4PM Fridays.
703-324-1300 TTY 711
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 1016
Fairfax, VA 22035
Gabriel M. Zakkak

Household Living, Overcrowding, and Multiple Dwellings

people sitting at table in home

How many people can live in a home?

Fairfax County has household living rules to make sure homes (i.e., dwelling units) are not overcrowded and that living conditions are safe. In general, if everyone living in the home is related (e.g., mothers and fathers; children; cousins; aunts; uncles; etc.), then that is allowed. However, if you are living or renting in a home with unrelated people then other rules apply.

Multiple Occupancy flier
Multiple Occupancy Flyer

There are limits on the number of unrelated people allowed to live in a single dwelling unit. A dwelling unit refers to the home, or parts of a structure, that have been designated for residential use. This includes condominium and apartment units. These limits can be found in subsection 4102.3.A. of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance and allow occupancy by no more than one of the following:

  1. Two or more persons related by blood or marriage and any number of natural children, foster children, stepchildren, adopted children, or children in kinship care, and with no more than two roomers or boarders;
  2. One or two persons with their dependent children, including natural children, foster children, stepchildren, adopted children, or children in kinship care, functioning as a single household;
  3. No more than four persons not related by blood or marriage functioning as a single household;
  4. A group residential facility; or
  5. A group household (only permitted in certain zoning districts and only with approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals).

people in house illustration

Can a home or dwelling unit have multiple renters?

Generally, no more than one family, plus two renters, may live together as a single household. Or, no more than four unrelated people may live in one house as a single household.

What is considered a “Multiple Dwelling?” Can a single property have more than one dwelling?

The Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance defines a dwelling or dwelling unit, in part, as a “residential building or portion of a building that is arranged, designed, used, or intended for residential occupancy with provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation...”

On properties zoned for single-family residential housing types, only one dwelling per lot is allowed, unless the property owner has an approved Accessory Living Unit (ALU). More information about ALUs can be found on the county’s website.

The presence of a second kitchen in a home does not automatically mean that there are multiple dwelling units. For instance, an owner interested in remodeling to create a second kitchen may apply for a second kitchen certification. This will allow the current owner to maintain a second kitchen until the sale of the property.  However, second kitchen certifications do not transfer to future homeowners, and each new owner will have to apply separately for their own certification. 

In a condominium or apartment building, each individual unit must adhere to the occupancy limits described above. Note: Other rules may apply based on the lease, bylaws, or other contracts between private parties. However, DCC does not enforce these private agreements.

What about Airbnb, VRBO, FlipKey, and other short-term rentals?

Rules for these types of short-term lodging and rentals (less than 30 consecutive nights) can be found on the county’s website.

How are household living and multiple dwelling rules enforced?

Department of Code Compliance (DCC) accepts reports and complaints of too many people living in the home as well as the illegal establishment of multiple dwellings. Cases are assigned to our investigators who will conduct an inspection of the property.

An inspection may include discussions with the occupants, property owner, or landlord; reviewing provided lease information; observing interior areas to determine if additional kitchens, bedrooms or living spaces have been created illegally; and determining if separate living areas constitute an unauthorized dwelling. If applicable, DCC investigators may pursue violations of both the Zoning Ordinance and building code if construction took place without permits and approval.

DCC will not request documentation of legal immigration status or otherwise verify citizenship. DCC follows guidelines in the Fairfax County Trust and Confidentiality Policy which ensures that immigrant residents can access county benefits and services without fear that the information they share will be disclosed to federal immigration officials.

Residential properties found in violation will be issued a Notice of Violation (NOV).

Anything else to know?

Bedrooms and living areas need to meet standards for safety – including minimum square feet, ceiling height, and sanitation. DCC will also inspect to make sure that there are smoke alarms installed in the home, and that each bedroom meets requirements for entry/exit; windows; stairways; and fire safety. See our website for more about these and other standards for property maintenance.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant