Ordinance Limits Unrelated Household Occupants

By Callie Yardley

A Lubbock zoning ordinance has long created problems for Texas Tech students, but it remains on the books: No more than two unrelated people may live in a single-family dwelling.

The local rule hinders those who want to live with multiple roommates. It gained national attention in 2001 when Tech Terrace landlord Bill Davis painted his property on the corner of 25th Street and Indiana Avenue bright purple with lime green trim in a public protest against the ordinance. The saga ended in 2004, when Davis agreed to obey the rule.


Deanie Riemath, a Lubbock code enforcement officer, said the codes department investigates only when complaints come in.

“We check who the property owner is and run any vehicles at that address,” she said.

Anyone who stays overnight for consecutive days is considered a resident, Riemath said. During investigations, if it is true that more than two unrelated individuals are living in one household, the codes department gives them a notice. If they fail to comply, the city issues violations.

“We approach the property owner and resident to get the story,” Riemath said. “It’s rare, but we have had to kick people out.”

Riemath said Tech Terrace usually gets more complaints than other areas.

Heath Edgerton, a junior agricultural and applied economics major who currently lives in Tech Terrace, said he could see why the ordinance exists, but finds it impractical in a college town.

“I mean, I see both sides of the law,” Edgerton said. “Lubbock doesn’t want a huge house with a lot of college kids in it.”

John Winker, owner of Tech Terrace Real Estate, said most people are unaware of the ordinance.

“I get calls all the time from people in Dallas, Houston and all around Lubbock asking about this thing,” Winker said. “Most people don’t know it exists and when they find out it does, they’re just amazed.”

Although he thinks the ordinance is a little ridiculous, Winker said he understands why it is there and is not interested in having it changed.

“I think the real reason to have it now is it just gives the city a tool,” Winker said. “If there is disruptive behavior, it gives them some leverage to take some action to take care of it.”

Winker, who has lived in Tech Terrace for 20 years, said one person can be just as disruptive as six. For him, it is all about being a courteous neighbor — something college-aged students may not always consider.

“I think it kind of discriminates against students a little bit,” Winker said. “Who else would they do it against besides students?”

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  1. Random Person says:

    I’ve heard this ordinance often affects the lower class in the northern part of Lubbock. North Lubbock has a higher rate of low-income residents. I’m not saying this is a way of controlling low-income residents, but it is a viable possibility.

  2. Both Sides Now says:

    Nothing like party animals living on your block with the noise, the underage drinking, the streets littered with red cups, beer cans and bottles. Landlords like to rent to these college kids because they charge more rent than they could charge a nuclear family for the same property. Since enforcement is triggered by complaints, nice quiet roommate groups are probably going to be left alone.

    The ordinance does have a built-in workaround. It does not define “related” to a specific degree of kinship, and the relationships can be through marriage or adoption as well. Roommates can research their kin and connect the dots as to how they are “related” and legally occupy a property. Maybe college students should take an interest in their family trees, and base roommate selection on obscure familial relationships in addition to friendship.

    It is interesting to note that there are no limits on how many relatives can be stacked into a home. Those three college students may be better neighbors than the family with seven teenagers.

    If there is adequate parking to not congest the street, and if there are no loud parties or unpleasant scenes, most neighbors do not really even care.

    A bigger problem is financial responsibility for rent and utilities, and one deadbeat in a unit can leave the whole group holding a big bag of debt.

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