By Taylor Cloonan
Staff Writer, The Capital News Service
The House of Delegates narrowly passed a bill Wednesday allowing building owners to limit the number of people allowed to share a bedroom.
Senate Bill 841, introduced by Sen. Mamie E. Locke, D-Hampton, passed in the Senate on Feb. 15 and was reported from the House Committee on General Laws. It passed the full House 49-48.
Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, endorsed the bill on behalf of the committee.
The bill gives an owner or managing agent of a residential unit the ability to develop occupancy standards restricting the number of occupants to two people per bedroom. It also establishes the square footage for bedroom size under the Uniform Statewide Building Code, Toscano said.
Del. Robert Orrock R-Caroline, objected to the legislation and asked the House to consider what the measure was truly about.
“The language of the law matters,” Orrock said. “This clearly is giving the authority where a local entity can dictate how many people can sleep in a bedroom.”
This could create a circumstance, Orrock said, in which his own family’s practice of sleeping four young children in two double beds would be illegal.
“I think this is an overreach of the law. I suggest this is not a wise and prudent measure to go forward,” he said.
In response, Toscano said the bill was permissive in scope and would not require all building owners to set the standards.
“The language says pretty clearly that the owner or the managing agent may develop and implement occupancy standards, it doesn’t say it will develop. And it doesn’t say that the jurisdiction will develop,” he said. The legislation would not create “burdensome regulations,” Toscano said.
The bill states that Under the Statewide Building Code, a bedroom must contain at least 70 square feet of floor area. Each bedroom occupied by more than one person must have at least 50 square feet of floor area for each person, according to the bill.
“Do you know how large 70 square feet of floor area is? It’s like a closet,” Toscano said.
Del. Thomas Rust, R-Fairfax, spoke in favor of the bill.
“Overcrowding is a major issue in a lot of the suburban and urban areas, and this would help to address that issue,” Rust said.
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