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A summary of the city's occupancy policy.

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City of Boulder Occupancy Ordinance

The City of Boulder's occupancy ordinance was put in place to protect the health, safety and welfare of the Boulder community.

The original ordinance was adopted in the 1990s. The latest occupancy ordinance was finalized in November 2015 and put in place on Jan. 4, 2016.

Occupancy Limits

Several criteria make up the city's occupancy limits:

  • A family, as defined by the city's Municipal Code, plus two unrelated people are allowed to live in a dwelling.
  • The maximum number of unrelated individuals allowed to live in a dwelling is determined by zoning district.
  • Generally, in low density zones the limit is three unrelated persons, in high density zones up to four unrelated people are allowed (more specifically, up to three unrelated individuals are allowed to live in a dwelling in P, A, RR, RE and RL zones; up to four persons in MU, RM, RMX, RH, BT, BC, BMS, BR, DT, IS, IG, IM and IMS zones).

Learn more and search for limits at specific property addresses

2022 Council Priority

The objective of this council priority is to perform a comparative analysis from other communities, develop a model occupancy approach, and solicit community input for future ordinance revisions.

Occupancy Reform Review

City Council has asked staff to explore a potential increase in the allowable occupancy per dwelling unit to four or five unrelated people citywide to add more affordable housing opportunities in the community. In the Land Use Code, the current number of unrelated people per dwelling unit is three for lower density residential zoning districts, and four in most other areas of the city. The city does not regulate how many family members may occupy a dwelling unit.

On March 9, City Council provided feedback after considering a significant number of email comments from community members. Watch the March 9 City Council meeting here.


We will be hosting office hours to answer questions on upcoming projects related to Accesory Dwelling Units, Occupancy Reform Review and Zoning for Affordable House. Drop in to ask questions and share your input.

Other ways to share your input:

  • April 18 – Virtual Planning Board- an overview of feedback and further analysis of the proposal will be presented. Comments can also be sent to
  • April 26 - Housing Advisory Board meeting- an overview of feedback and further analysis of the proposal will be presented. Comments can also be sent to
  • June 15 - City Council open comment - an overview of feedback and further analysis of the proposal will be presented. Send comments to council in advance of the June 15 meeting.

City Council has asked that an ordinance to change the Land Use Code be brought before council by August 2023. Comments or questions about the project can be directed to Karl Guiler, Senior Policy Advisor.

Project Timeline

  • Nov. 2022 – Update City Council on project status at Study Session
  • Dec. 2022 – Feb. 2023: Develop scope of project, community engagement plan and potential code change options
  • Mar. 2023 – City Council study session to discuss scope of work, community engagement and potential options
  • Mar – July 2023 – Options refinement, community engagement and code change drafting
  • July – Sept. 2023 – Ordinance review by Planning Board and City Council. Potential adoption of ordinance and completion of project.


The Planning & Development Services Code Compliance Team oversees occupancy limits. Since 2018, this team has received just over 100 calls regarding potential over-occupancy.

Total Calls

  • 2018: 26
  • 2019: 36
  • 2020: 31
  • 2021: 26
  • 2022: 28

Calls where no violation was found

  • 2018: 14
  • 2019: 13
  • 2020: 8
  • 2021: 12
  • 2022: 16

Complaint Received:

  • 2018: All Cases Investigated
  • 2019: All Cases Investigated
  • 2020: 3 Still Under Investigation
  • 2021: 6 Still Under Investigation
  • 2022: 4 Still Under Investigation

Enforced Calls

In all cases where a violation is confirmed, the property is required to be brought into compliance. This can take the form of warnings, fines and/or displacement of tenants. The landlord and tenants are given a reasonable amount of time to break the lease and relocate prior to any penalties being assessed. The majority of, if not all, cases are resolved with warnings and amicable resolution to dissolve the lease between the landlord and tenant. Penalties and/or evictions are very rare and the city works with the occupants to achieve compliance and ensure they have safe housing at the conclusion of the case.

Complaint Received or Confirmed Violation (Complaint received is a report that is still being investigated. Confirmed Violation is a case where a violation has been found and the case is still in progress or has been closed with the issue resolved):

  • 2018: 12
  • 2019: 23
  • 2020: 21
  • 2021: 12
  • 2022: 7

    Occupancy and COVID-19

    The city’s enforcement approach to over-occupancy violations was adjusted during the COVID-19 pandemic, through May 31, 2021, to avoid displacing people from safe dwellings. This approach took into account health and safety circumstances presented by the pandemic.

    Now, the city is back to its standard procedure, which requires occupants to find alternative safe housing and reduce the number at the property to a compliant level. People are usually given 30 days initially with extensions offered for tenants struggling to find available housing. The city works with occupants to achieve compliance and ensure they have safe housing.