Many people are under the impression that there are laws that restrict or govern kids sleeping in the same room. However, this is not true in the state of North Carolina, or anywhere else for that matter. According to the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, "Although a landlord may set 'occupancy standards' for the number of people that will be allowed to live in a unit, the standards should not be based on the age or sex of the individuals." Public housing agencies and the foster children's system do have policies on sleeping arrangements to ensure adequate living facilities for children and families in their care. Nevertheless, making a universal rule or law about whether your children may share a room is a form of illegal discrimination.
Walking a Fine Line
Public agency policies on children sharing rooms can be mistaken for law. But there is a fine line between the reasonable standards a property owner may use in choosing his renters and limiting overall occupancy, and imposing personal opinion or preference as law on parents as to where their children may sleep. As long as you are paying your own living expenses, apart from any state assistance or the presence of foster children in your home, neither state nor federal agency nor landlord has any say over your children's sleeping arrangements.
The North Carolina Real Estate Commission reports that fair housing laws do allow reasonable restriction as to the maximum occupancy allowed in a housing unit. This does not extend to dictating how many children may sleep in one room or prohibiting opposite gender siblings from sharing a bedroom. The general recommendation is two people per bedroom. Nevertheless, small rooms may limit occupancy to one, and some larger rooms can comfortably accommodate three or four, if the parent so wishes and equips the room with adequate beds.
When the Government Has a Say
For the safety of children and families receiving public housing assistance and foster children, the public agencies that oversee these programs do have rules about adequate facilities and sleeping arrangements. They are not law, but anyone who wishes to participate in the foster system or continue receiving state assistance must comply to ensure quality living standards and adequate space for the children to eat, sleep, bathe, study and play. Foster homes must comply with rules regarding sleeping arrangements, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. For instance, same gender siblings or same gender non-siblings that are close in age may share a double bed, if they so desire and both foster parents and the agency agree that it is appropriate. Opposite gender children may only share a room if they are younger than five years old. The NCDHHS continues, "When children share a bedroom, a child under six shall not share a room with a child over 12, except when siblings are being placed together. No more than four children shall share a room." The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development follows similar guidelines to avoid forcing parents receiving housing assistance, for lack of space, to room opposite gender siblings together unless they choose to do so.
What Landlords Can't Do
The most a landlord can do is recommend a per-bedroom occupancy and limit total occupancy of the premises to two times the number of bedrooms. Any further attempt to control or micromanage where you allow your child to sleep is an invasion of personal privacy. Property owners cannot legally restrict occupancy to less than two per bedroom or refuse to rent to families with children; nor can he make rules about whether your child sleeps in your room or whether sisters and brothers share a room. Any such attempt on the part of a landlord or property owner constitutes illegal discrimination, according to Housing Rights, Incorporated, an organization that helps people get and keep their home by exercising their housing rights.
- North Carolina Real Estate Commission: Questions and Answers on Fair Housing
- North Carolina Division of Social Services: Family Services Manual, page 18
- Housing Rights, Inc.: Frequently Asked Questions
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Public Housing Occupancy Guide Book, pages 62 to 65
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: Home Study Requirements for Prospective Foster Parents
- U.S. Legal Answers: Is There a Law Concerning Siblings of the Opposite Sex Sharing a Bedroom?
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: North Carolina PHA Contact Information
- North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services: NC Building Code Requirements for Mental Health Licensed facilities with 6 or Fewer Clients
- North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services: Rule Changes to Foster Home Rules, pages 7-8
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