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Explainer: How Do Housing Inspectors Decide If A Home Is Overcrowded?

And what technically qualifies as "overcrowded" according to the law?

As Port Chester continues its safe housing efforts and a series of fires fan the flames of debate about illegal housing in the village, some readers have asked how housing inspectors determine if a home is overcrowded.

The most common question: Do they count the mattresses?

Yes and no.

Mattresses and bedding are one indication that more people are crammed into a home or apartment, but it's just one sign among many that inspectors look for when they review a home.

Other telltale signs include the growing forests of garbage cans left curbside when too many tenants occupy a home; more cars parked on streets and in driveways; and alterations, usually performed without permits, designed to put usually non-habitable spaces to use as apartments or sleeping quarters. Some examples from Port Chester include enclosed porches, and "apartments" in basements and attics.

Finally, New York State's Property Maintenance Code sets minimum requirements based on square footage and the number of people living in a dwelling:

404.5 Overcrowding. Dwelling units shall not be occupied by more occupants than permitted by the minimum area requirements of Table 404.5. 

TABLE 404.5
 MINIMUM AREA REQUIREMENTS

SPACE

MINIMUM AREA IN SQUARE FEET

1-2 occupants

3-5 occupants

6 or more occupants

Living rooma,b

No requirements

120

150

Dining rooma,b

No requirements

80

100

Kitchen

50

50

60

Bedrooms

Shall comply with Section 404.4

 

For SI: 1 square foot = 0.0929 m2.

 

 

a.

See Section 404.5.2 for combined living room/dining room spaces.

 

 

b.

See Section 404.5.1 for limitations on determining the minimum occupancy area for sleeping purposes.

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Cadeyrn July 13, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Add satellite dishes to the list. Run a cross check with school registration addresses. Ask mail carriers for info. Most important, let neighbors report what they see ... and hear ... and sometimes suffer. Then act on it. Swiftly.
George Datino July 13, 2011 at 03:19 PM
I am glad that you put this out here. People don't realize that there is a difference between an illegal apartment (living unit) and an overcrowded unit. Be definition, an illegal apartment is illegal, however, it is illegal to have too many people living in a legal dwelling (either apartment or home). Both situations are occuring and need to be stopped.
AA11 July 13, 2011 at 04:02 PM
Great point Cadeyrn...There is no reason for a 2 family house to have 8 or even 10 satellite dishes hanging off every part of the house. Besides being a red flag for an illegal housing unit, it makes the apperance of the house look bad. Is there any code on how many dishes can be on a house??
Peggy Johnston July 14, 2011 at 11:47 AM
There is a reference to code 404.4 in the article but only 404.5 is cited. What is the occupancy for bedroom space? In prior years when conplaints were filed against homes with multiple satelite dishes, residents were told that it alone was not a valid reason for an inspection of a home for violations Thankfully, that is not the case since a new code enforcement system is in place. AA11's question is one which should be considered as is Cadeyrn's suggestion to listen to resident's observations and act upon them.
Bob July 14, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Are my calculations correct? Looking at the article above, if you have a 10' x 12' living room, a 10' x 8' dining room and a 5' x 10 ft kitchen, you can have 15 occupants not counting bedrooms? What am I missing.
George Datino July 14, 2011 at 12:48 PM
I don't think you add up the occupancy of each room, I think those are minimum requirements for all the rooms together that would allow 3-5 occupants to legally occupy that dwelling.
Nik Bonopartis July 14, 2011 at 05:03 PM
Thanks for the feedback. Peggy's right, I should have included the previous section. Since I'm far from a subject matter expert in this area, I'll follow up with code enforcement and try to get answers to the above questions. Seems like this is worth a follow-up that would help clarify things further for our readers. Thanks.
Greg Tart July 14, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Nik- You certainly have a done a fantastic job of reporting with these various articles. I am shocked at this situation. Previously, Mr. Datino told me that this is an ongoing situation, and that overcrowding was not seasonal.
Concerned View July 14, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Is there any code on how many dishes can be on a house?? There should be. Its something the people of this Village has been clamoring about for years, such as limiting the # of dishes equal to the # of legal residences. We're still waiting for the BOT to pass a resolution that will require any sale or transfer of property to obtain a new CO. Like everything else, its been talked about but we're still waiting.
Bart Didden July 14, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Concerned View, Three weeks ago I added this as a discussion item to the BOT agenda. This coming Monday we will pass a resolution to hold a public hearing to make changes to the various codes of the Village to require a new C.O. on every sale or transfer. Now to make this happen smoothly and orderly we will need to staff up, the BOT will need to discuss this and have the needed added people in place (inspectors and clerical support) for when the code changes come into effect. Trustee Terenzi spoke at the last meeting about hiring an outside firm to scan and organize all the existing documents to support this effort as well. I agree. We are doing our part, it is time for all the Patch readers to do theirs, call, e-mail or post here your message to the Mayor and Trustee's Brakewood, Branca and Marino to join Trustees Kenner, Terenzi & me to get this job done. Pass the changes to the Codes of the Village and take the Village to the next level. This effort has REAL value for every taxpayer. It creates real value in our properties because buyers will know that they are buying legal properties with sustainable values. I call on all the members of the Board of Trustees to join with me to do the right thing for our Village. Support our building codes, support the goal of safe housing for everyone and support the idea that safe housing and uncrowded living conditions is a basic human right for everyone.
George Datino July 15, 2011 at 11:32 AM
You are correct Trustee Didden, in order to do the right thing here, it is going to mean staffing up. We have seen other articles (i.e. - Lawyers complaining that the building department is not responsive enough) that might be an indication that staffing up might help relieve other issues as well. With that said, any good legislation should have built into it the mechanism that will pay for it (unlike the legislation that comes out of Albany). I would suggest that included in this new legislation be the mechanism to have the money come from the people who are causing the need to begin with - the violators. Put in fines, surcharges, fees, etc., etc. that the law abiding taxpayer will not have to bare the cost of the ramp up. These are expenses that are a direct result of people's greed and the violators need to pay for their greed and complete disregard for the community.
Peggy Johnston July 15, 2011 at 01:57 PM
My comment was not in any way a criticism of Nik's article and his great coverage on our local issues - It was a question. In regard to Bart Didden's plea to the public to make its support known for the code enforcement ramp up: How much more clear can it be made? The entire village is in favor of tighter rules and regulations! Why is a public hearing necessary in order for the BOT to enact new codes, enforce compliance and impose fines on violations? If the Mayor, Mssrs. Brakewood, Branca and Marino have not heard this outcry from the public and join the rest of the members of the BOT in this effort, there is something drastically wrong with our elected reps.. The message is clear: give Mr. Steers the manpower and the legislative power to accomplish the job he is now doing and allow him to expand the effort and uccessfullyl get the programs operating efficiently. To borrow from Nike: "JUST DO IT!"
Aidan July 15, 2011 at 10:46 PM
Peggy, amen. If any elected official acts as though this topic is a pop-up issue, well, then they've got dreadful hearing. This has long been one of the top issues with citizens across the village. Patience might be a virtue, but some politicians have drained the reserve of most citizens. And that famous, potent buzz-word ... "tolerance" ... for once, is applicable to the good people of PC. They have tolerated this for too long. They want action ... and they expect it now. There is nothing to suggest that this village cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. The revitalization plans can, of course, continue in earnest. And this issue of illegal, unsafe, and over-crowded housing can be addressed at the same time. In fact, one might argue that such an effort makes great sense. I, too, want Mr. Steers to have what he needs to pounce on this issue ... and to uncover offenders and send a clear warning throughout the village that Port Chester is no longer an inefficient, issue-averse community suffering from its own timidity because, for once, tolerance is on the side of the property owners who fund this enterprise.

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