New real estate law targets over-occupancy in Fayetteville

A rental sign stands in front of a home on Hotz Drive in a single-family neighborhood west of Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer staff

A new real estate requirement aims to increase awareness of Fayetteville’s occupancy limits.

City Council members in December passed an ordinance that will require anyone who sells or rents a house in Fayetteville to disclose to the buyer or tenant that no more than three unrelated roommates are allowed to live together in a single-family home. The buyer or tenant must then acknowledge in writing that they understand the rules.

Occupancy Rules

Fayetteville has specific rules on how many unrelated roommates can live together under one roof:

  • No more than three unrelated people are allowed to occupy a residence in a single-family zoning district.
  • Up to four unrelated people are allowed to occupy a residence in a multi-family zoning district.
  • Developers can apply for a special planned zoning district to allow up to five unrelated people to live together in a new apartment complex.

Residents can call 479-575-8267 or visit My Fayetteville Services to find out if a home is in a single-family or multi-family zoning district.

Anyone caught violating the law could face fines of up to $500.

Over-occupancy is a common complaint from residents who live near the University of Arkansas campus. Homeowners say noise, trash, and parking issues become escalated when more than three college students live together in a single-family home.

The topic was raised at two separate Ward 4 candidate forums leading up to the Nov. 4 general election. Several candidates suggested putting more responsibility on the owner or landlord of a house to make sure their tenants understand the city’s occupancy limits.

“Why as neighbors are we responsible for continually following up to make sure that our city ordinances are followed?” asked candidate Phillip McKnight.

Ward 4 Alderman Alan Long, who sponsored the new disclosure requirement, said the first step in tackling over-occupancy is education and acknowledgement.

“What this attempts to do is solve the communication problem before it starts and start educating people on the front end instead of letting them be cited or found in violation or having code enforcement show up at their door before they even know about something,” Long said. “People won’t be able to say that they don’t know about this law, and this will show that landlords and sellers have shared the information.”

Don Marr, Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s chief of staff, said there have been numerous cases in Fayetteville where tenants who were violating the law claimed they were not aware of the occupancy requirements.

He said after researching 21 university towns that are also battling over-occupancy issues, education was often cited as an effective first step.

City Attorney Kit Williams said he supported the idea.

“A lot of times, it’s the tenants who are violating the law because they’re the ones who are there, but they’re really kind of the innocent party because it should’ve been the landlord that knows,” said Williams. “This goes back one step and places the burden on the landlord to do the right thing in the first place and make sure their tenants know there can only be three unrelated people there.”

The new law goes into effect July 1. The six-month delay period was added to the new ordinance to allow city staff enough time to notify property owners and real estate agents that they’ll need to revise their contracts to include the new disclosure language.