How Many People Can Live in a 1-Bedroom Apartment? (Answered)

When you’re apartment hunting it’s important to know in advance how much space you’ll need. How many people will be living in the unit? How many bedrooms do you need in your apartment? Most of the time, the larger the apartment, the higher the rent. Saving money is important, so we sometimes find ourselves trying to minimize the space to get a lower rent price. However, there’s one question that people optimizing their space often ask:

How many people can live in a one-bedroom apartment?

2 or 3 people can live in a one-bedroom apartment. There are, of course, exceptions to this that we will discuss below, but most typically you can expect that a landlord will limit the occupancy of a one-bedroom apartment to 2 or 3 people.

The Federal Standard on Occupancy Limits on a 1-Bedroom Apartment

In the 60’s the federal U.S. government passed the Federal Fair Housing Act. This act is famous for protecting citizens from housing discrimination against protected classes of gender, familial status, race, religion, national origin, and disability. The act also set up occupancy limits. The act recommends a maximum of two people per bedroom unless it’s justifiable to have a higher or lower number.

As you can see it states that the recommended number is two per bedroom. It’s not a law. It’s a suggestion. A landlord can allow more occupants if the number is justified. As an example, a justifiable increase would be for a baby (who is very small and takes up less space than an adult.) We get into the children aspect of this question below.

How Many People Can Live in a 1-Bedroom Apartment

Occupancy Limits at the State Level for 1-Bedroom Apartments

Now that we’ve learned that the U.S. government doesn’t regulate occupancy limits and just suggests them, let’s look at it at the state level. As with many regulations, each state can have its own laws and they certainly do. The only caveat is that they cannot go against the federal standard.

The most typical regulation in states allows for two people per bedroom plus one. So, when folks ask us how many people can live in a 2-bedroom apartment– we say 5, and so on and so forth with apartments with more bedrooms. As always, when you are searching for your next apartment, make sure you understand your own state’s laws and how they affect you.

Why are there Occupancy Limits on 1-Bedroom Apartments?

The main reason that occupancy limits exist is for safety – for both the occupants and the property itself. An apartment that is overcrowded is more susceptible to fires, pest infestations, unsanitary conditions, accidents, and damage to the apartment. The limits protect you, the tenant, from being crammed into areas much too small for you. It also allows the landlord to protect the property from unnecessary wear and tear.

When Can a Landlord Allow More than 3 People in a 1-Bedroom Apartment?

As we’ve briefly touched on already, a landlord can often allow more than the federally recommended four people to live in an apartment. The most common reason landlords raise the limit is for families. One of the classes protected by the Fair Housing Act is familial status – or having children. This means that a landlord cannot deny you an apartment because you have children. The Fair Housing Act also requires landlords to allow families to stay together whenever possible and as much as possible.

So, if you have a family of two adults and two young children and are wanting to rent a one-bedroom unit, it may be reasonable for the landlord to accommodate this request. Kids are smaller than adults and usually take up less space. If the bedrooms are tiny, however, it may be less reasonable. The specific apartment and its size do have some bearing on this question. So does the age of the child. Teenagers, for example, are much bigger and take up more space than infants.

There is a common misconception that children under two years old don’t count towards occupancy limits. This is false. Every child, regardless of age, counts as a person occupying the space. Younger children are sometimes easier to accommodate when asking for a limit to be raised because of their smaller size.

Will My Rent Go Up if an Additional Occupant is Added to My 1-Bedroom Apartment?

If you decide to have more than is typically allowed in an apartment, the rent may be higher. It depends upon the landlord’s policies. The only time you definitely cannot be charged more is for children. This is another caveat of the Fair Housing Act and the protected familial status. Families cannot be denied due to children or charged extra for them.

If you decide to add a roommate, however, there is a chance the rental amount will change. Before having anyone new move in with you, always check your lease for what is allowed and communicate with your landlord. Violating a lease puts you at risk of being evicted.

Can a Landlord Make the Limit of a One Bedroom Apartment Less than Three People?

Lowering the occupancy limit below 3 is much more difficult than raising it. The Fair Housing Act states that all limits must be reasonable and within local jurisdictions. Justifying the need for less than four is not as easy to do.

The most common scenario where limits are under two per bedroom is in senior communities. These communities often limit occupants to ages 55+ and they don’t have to allow kids. This may make their occupancy limits vary and a limit under 3 people for a one-bedroom apartment more reasonable.

Is there a Guest Limit on a 1-Bedroom Apartment?

Do guests count towards occupancy limits? No, they don’t. Guests are different. They are not on the lease and they do not live in the apartment. They are also not screened by the landlord before they are allowed to visit.

Because they are not on the lease, they don’t have the same rights of a tenant. If they become disruptive or destructive a landlord can require they leave the property without having to utilize the eviction process.

Your lease will likely have a clause about overnight guests and how long they are allowed to stay at the property. Each lease is unique and they are often tailored to the specific laws of their state. Some leases will approach overnight guest limits consecutively.

These leases state that guests can’t stay more than 5-7 consecutive days in a row. Others approach it cumulatively and state that a guest cannot stay more than 14 or 15 days over a 6-month timeframe.

Regardless of the standard in your state, be sure you know the terms of your specific lease and what is allowed for you.

Pay Attention to the Occupancy Limits

When you look for your next apartment, as you try to maximize space and minimize rent cost, make sure you pay attention to the occupancy limits as well. They exist to keep you safe and the property from being damaged. Limit standards are set by the federal government, regulated by states, and enforced by landlords. If you want to upgrade, we’ve previously written bout how many people can live in a 3 bedroom apartment.

Your lease cannot override any local, state, or federal laws. Knowing the law and understanding your lease is always the best way to ensure you are inhabiting your home legal.

About Chad & Rachel

Rachel and Chad have over 17 years of experience as both renters and landlords. They were tenants in 7 different apartments before becoming landlords of 9 apartments in Chicago. Renting apartments from landlords and being landlords themselves have helped them gain the knowledge that they want to share with renters. Whether you are at the beginning of your rental journey or in the middle of your lease and dealing with complex apartment issues, we are happy to help where we can. Read more about Rachel and Chad, or send a message using this contact form.

1 thought on “How Many People Can Live in a 1-Bedroom Apartment? (Answered)”

  1. My daughters friend has a 14 year old daughter and a 10 year old son. She wants to rent a one bedroom apartment with her children living with her. Is this legal?


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