You may know it when you see it — too many people living in a house, or people living in a garage, basement or shed. It is illegal to operate a boarding house without the proper permits. However, the county’s zoning, building and safety codes set out what’s legal. These codes define how many people can live in a house, how much space they need and what’s considered safe.
The zoning ordinance (Article 2, Part 5) limits how many people can live in a single residence. In general:
- No more than one family, plus two renters, may live in one house.
- Or, no more than four unrelated people may live in one house.
However, the rules define that more than one person can live in a residence:
1. One family, which may consist of one person or two or more persons related by blood or marriage with any number of natural children, foster children, step children or adopted children and with not to exceed two roomers or boarders.
2. Two single parents or guardians with not more than a total of six of their dependent children, including natural children, foster children, step children or adopted children, functioning as a single housekeeping unit.
3. A group of not more than four persons not necessarily related by blood or marriage functioning as a single housekeeping unit.
4. A group residential facility.
5. Any group housekeeping unit which may consist of not more than 10 persons as may be approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals.
6. One person or two persons one of whom shall be elderly and/or disabled, and one or both of whom own the dwelling unit, plus one family, which may consist of one person or two or more persons related by blood or marriage, and with any number of natural children, foster children, step children or adopted children.
7. A bed and breakfast, as may be approved by the Board of Supervisors.
The Virginia Maintenance Code states that:
- 70 square feet for one person
- 100 square feet for two people
- 150 square feet for three people
Every residence must meet the following requirements, according to:
Smoke Alarms: At a minimum, the county code (Section 61-5-1) says there must be:
- 1 smoke alarm outside each bedroom, including basement bedrooms
- 1 smoke alarm on each floor of the house
Emergency Exits: At a minimum, there must be:
- Two means of exit — one of which must go directly outside — for each bedroom.
Basements: There are also other safety rules for bedrooms in basements. These include requirements for lighting, stairways, and fire safety.