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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

The goal of this council priority is to review city occupancy standards and consider land use code amendments that provide opportunities to obtain attainable or affordable housing, while balancing the preservation of neighborhood character.

Next Council Action

Council will hold a Study Session or Matters item to check in on the scope of the work in Q3.

Project Timeline

Apr. – Jul. 2022: Evaluate occupancy laws of other jurisdictions.

Jul. – Sept. 2022: Develop options for regulating occupancy to present to the community that address objectives.

Aug. – Sept. 2022: Develop community engagement plan and seek community input.

Oct. 2022: City Council matters item to refine scope of the project.

Dec. 2022 – Feb. 2023: Draft amendments to Boulder’s occupancy regulations.

Enforcement

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 (as of 2/24/22): 4

Calls where no violation was found

  • 2018: 14
  • 2019: 13
  • 2020: 8
  • 2021: 12
  • 2022 (as of 2/24/22): 0

Complaint Received:

  • 2018: All Cases Investigated
  • 2019: All Cases Investigated
  • 2020: 2 Still Under Investigation
  • 2021: 2 Still Under Investigation
  • 2022 (as of 2/24/22): 1 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 (as of 2/24/22): 0

    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.