Modern housing laws are meant to organize urban areas, provide fair access to housing for everyone, and protect the good and safety of the community. There are various purposes for housing laws, so sometimes they seem conflicting or downright confusing. At their heart, housing laws across the country are meant to improve living conditions for everyone.
Some laws or local ordinances are borne out of experience. Someone does something that no one anticipated and a regulation is drafted to prevent it from ever happening again. Other laws are drafted out of necessity and not updated as times change. In many older cities, you can find laws on the books that refer to horses and other outdated forms of transportation.
Older laws are funny to consider in the context of modern times. Some of the other strange laws are especially interesting when you imagine what situation prompted them to be implemented. Why, for instance, were lawmakers concerned about the use of clawfoot tubs or people brewing their own beer at home?
Landlord-Tenant Laws in New York City
Many people across the country who are not accustomed to the New York City lifestyle find it strange. There are some laws on the books that even the NYC natives would agree are outdated and a little odd. One such law prohibits the cohabitation of more than three people from different families in the same apartment. You can imagine this probably stemmed from the problems of tenement housing almost a century ago. Today, rents are high in New York City and some people are willing to bunk with total strangers simply to have a roof over their heads. Sadly, modern landlords use this law to evict groups of poor immigrants when nothing else will work.
Meanwhile, in a swanky neighborhood in Brooklyn it is still legal to keep cattle and swine in the backyard. The only provision is that the livestock be secured with a sturdy fence. If you want to anger your neighbors in Williamsburg, try getting a pig for the yard. Despite their protest, they will not have legal grounds to evict you or your pet.
Typical barnyard animals like roosters, turkey, geese and ducks are prohibited in areas of New York City where there are buildings, so that would be everywhere today. This makes sense because several acres of open farm land surrounded the urban area in the early 1800s. There is a loophole in the law, however, which is still on the books, to allow you to keep chickens inside your New York City home. These animals must be quieter than the others, and of course, they are a good source of eggs.
Other activities that might upset the neighbors are outlawed in New York City. For instance, it is illegal to hold a puppet show, perform a comedy skit or offer a dance recital in a window of your house or apartment. It is not clear what the writers of this law were afraid of. Perhaps they envisioned crowds gathering on residential streets to enjoy the arts. Or maybe they were trying to regulate how housing is used in the generation of income.
The City of New York manages over 8 million people in less than 24 square miles. To keep order, there have to be some rules and regulations about housing. The barnyard animals and puppet show concerns may be outdated, but at some point they must have helped so many people live together harmoniously.
Other Strange Housing Laws for Women
In the state of Ohio, it is illegal for more than five women to live together in a house. Apparently, a bunch of women in one house raises concerns about prostitution, at least for the writers of this law. One can only assume they meant to curb the size of brothels, although it is not clear why five is so much worse than four. For Ohio residents planning large families, it is a good idea to hope for some boys. After the fourth girl, you are going to have to stop having babies until one grows up and moves out.
The definition of a brothel in Pennsylvania is more than 16 women living together in one house. It that state, it is illegal for 16 women to live together. Ohio is more conservative than Pennsylvania. Hopefully, the houses are bigger in Pennsylvania, too.
In Tennessee, more than eight women cohabiting is against the law. It is interesting how several states chose to solve the problem of brothels the same way, but they do not agree on the basic definition. In Ohio it was five women living together. In Pennsylvania it is 16, and in Tennessee it is eight. If you plan to live with female roommates, it is a good idea to check the legal limits in your state, so you’re not accused of participating in a brothel.
Weird Housing Laws Concerning Furnishings
In one Ohio city, there are severe restrictions on furnishing your outhouse. It is not legal to either install or use a slot machine in an outhouse. This might pose a problem for gambling addicts who do not have indoor plumbing. Maybe the restriction on slot machines in outhouses was intended to cut down on gambling addictions. Certainly there is enough risk involved in simply entering an outhouse, especially after dark, without adding any games of chance.
Another state with strange laws about home furnishings is Oklahoma. Residents of that state pay taxes on their personal belongings, including the furniture in their house. In the case of adults cohabitating but filing separately, it is unclear how that property is distributed or if there is any double-dipping on the part of the state by collecting taxes from two people on the same items.
If you live in the state of Washington, furnishing your home could be difficult on Sundays. In that state, it is illegal to buy a mattress on Sunday. You should plan your decorating projects carefully to avoid violating the law. If you discover you need a new mattress on Sunday, you’ll need to wait until Monday to make the purchase.
Stupid Housing Laws You May Not Be Aware Of
From snoring to home repairs and safety, there are many housing issues regulated by law. Whether they make sense or not, the following laws are currently on the books in various states:
- In San Francisco, it is legal for a landlord to evict a tenant in order to take up residence in the rental unit himself. There are, however, rather strict regulations on this practice. The landlord has to move into the unit within three months of your eviction, and he has to continue to live there for at least three years. If he moves out before the three year period is up, he has to offer you a chance to move back in at the same rental rate you were paying when you moved out. It seems the only people making money in this scenario are the moving companies.
- It is illegal in the state of Maryland to allow thistles to grow in your yard. It is not clear who enforces this law, as there is no mention of a Thistle Police force, and it is doubtful if the average cop on the beat would recognize a thistle. Perhaps codes enforcement does a regular sweep of the neighborhood and issues summons to homeowners for the offending vegetation.
- A cleaning ordinance in Pennsylvania imposes strict guidelines on the use of rugs in homes. It is not legal to use a rug to hide dust and dirt. Housewives in Pennsylvania are held to this standard for some unknown reason. Perhaps they have found better places to hide nasty dirt that accumulates in the house between cleanings.
- Landowners in Pennsylvania are prohibited from hunting on their own land without a license. They are, however, free to fish on their own property with no restrictions at all. The law does not specify whether that free fishing can take place from your own water front property or if you have to own the entire pond.
- In Georgia, it is not legal to live on a boat for more than 30 days in one calendar year. The law applies to state residents as well as transients. Do not expect to go to Georgia and buy a houseboat. Under this law, it would be impossible to spend the summer or winter on your boat living in the state of Georgia. It gives new meaning to the phrase “feet dry.”
- In the state of Massachusetts, snoring with the windows open is against the law. All bedroom windows must be closed and locked securely if you plan to snore. People with a snoring problem in Massachusetts need air-conditioning to get through the summer months with the windows closed. It is unclear who enforces the snoring ordinance and what the penalty is for violating it.
- Massachusetts law also regulates other aspects of bed time and bedroom activities. It is illegal in the state to go to bed without taking a bath first. This could make sense for people who snore, since they will be closed up in the bedroom all night without any windows open. Why the practice of bathing before bed is important for everyone else is unclear. Again, enforcement is sketchy, and no statistics about how many people have been cited with a violation of the law could be found.
- Another state that is concerned with bathing activities and bathroom furnishings is Wisconsin. Bathtubs in Wisconsin may not have feet, a regulation that defies recent decorating trends. For homeowners planning renovations, keep this law in mind. It is not clear what the state finds offensive about clawfoot tubs.
- Bathtubs are also the focus of a weird law in South Carolina, where it is illegal to keep a horse in a bathtub. Aside from the fact that it is highly unusual for a law to concern both bathtubs and horses, you have to wonder about the scenario that prompted this law. There does not seem to be a corresponding law prohibiting the installation of a bathtub in a barn. Horses are not known for enjoying long soaks, and you’d need a pretty big tub if you wanted to keep your horse in it, anyway.
- If you bring your horse to South Dakota, you should be aware of a specific restriction there. Horses may only enter the municipality of Fountain Inn if they are wearing pants. This does not solve the problem of how to bathe your horse, since Fountain Inn is not an actual fountain. It actually raises more questions about horse owners and where and under what conditions they keep their animals. It is unclear whether you can buy pants for your horse in Fountain Inn, should you arrive on bareback.
- Keeping your house in good repair is important for many reasons, and it can be a matter of public safety. Michigan law adds one more reason to be sure your home is safe for you and any visitors. Under state law, if someone breaks into your house in Michigan and gets hurt, he or she can sue you. Apparently, Michigan homeowners have a duty to safeguard all individuals who enter their home, not only the ones who are invited.
- Alcohol is a subject of controversy in some states, and many try to regulate alcoholic activities in public places and private homes. In Texas, some lawmakers have solved the problem of home brew. There is a law that bans the Encyclopedia Britannica in Texas because it includes instructions for brewing your own beer. No encyclopedia means you will not engage in beer brewing at home, and the whole state will be safe, apparently.
- In Wyoming, there is a special law that applies to new buildings that cost over $100,000. The law requires at least 1% of the money to build the building be spent on artwork to adorn it. The law offers no distinction between residential and commercial buildings. It does not clearly state how the law would be enforced. Perhaps you need to submit receipts to the building inspector before you obtain a certificate of occupancy.
A sampling of the strange housing laws on the books in various municipalities across the country provides much entertainment. If you do some research into your own state, you will probably find a law laws that are a bit confusing or weird. To avoid violating any strange housing laws, work with a builder, developer and property manager who is aware of the housing regulations in your area.
Triple Crown Corporation is a professional housing corporation that can handle your housing needs. When you are ready to make a move or you want to see your available options, contact Triple Crown Corporation for a new apartment.