Forbidding More Than Three People from Living Together Violates Ohio Constitution
Ohio cities violate property rights by prohibiting more than three unrelated people from living in the same home
February 5, 2018: Bowling Green, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today moved to strike a municipal ordinance that criminalizes greater than three unrelated individuals living in the same home regardless of the size of the home.
The action is filed against the City of Bowling Green on behalf of 23 Bowling Green landlords and three student tenants threatened with eviction. The landlords own over 161 homes that, despite four or more bedrooms and ample parking, may not be occupied by greater than three unrelated people.
Through its Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the 1851 Center explains that the City’s ordinance, which imposes a $500 per day fine, is violates the Ohio Constitution through suppressing private property rights and equal protection and imposing vague standards and excessive fines:
- As in other states that have invalidated such occupancy limits, the Ohio Constitution is more protective of private property rights and equal protection than the federal constitution.
- While the regulation professes to limit population density, many homes in the City are exempt from the rule, while there are no similar occupancy limits on related individuals.
- The regulation is unconstitutionally vague, insofar as the City maintains no list of which properties are exempt, and regulates houses based upon whether or not they were “designed for single family use.”
- Fine of $162,500 per year for permitting four individuals to live in a four-bedroom home is patently excessive.
“In Ohio, many zoning regulations needlessly interfere with private property rights, drive up the cost of living, fail to accomplish their proclaimed purposes, and are used as political weapons – – often to benefit special interests or suppress disfavored minorities. This regulation is no different,” explained 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “However, there is no coherent reason why four missionaries should be prohibited from occupying a large six bedroom house, even as an unruly family of eight lives in a smaller home next door.”
The 1851 Center draws a distinction between zoning regulations that prohibit homeowners from using their property to directly inflict harm on others and regulations simply aimed at social engineering.
“This regulation is aimed at government-controlled social engineering, i.e. keeping ‘the wrong kind of people’ out of certain neighborhoods, rather than land use. Unruly behavior should be directly regulated, rather than regulated on the basis of the relationships between those who live together,” added Thompson. “Ohioans should not be forced to pay higher rent or endure longer commutes due to such arbitrary regulations.”
The case is pending before Judge Zouhary in the Western Division of the Northern District of Ohio. The Judge has issued a temporary standstill order.
Read the 1851 Center’s Complaint HERE.
Read the 1851 Center’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction HERE.
The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is a non-profit, non-partisan legal center dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse. The 1851 Center litigates constitutional issues related to property rights, regulation, taxation, and search and seizures.
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