The Norman Transcript

February 25, 2014

City ordinance needs to be abolished

By John Lungren
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — This regards the ordinance of no more than three unrelated persons may live together. Our group of 53 property managers/landlords want this ordinance abolished. A group member has called this law “offensive and appalling.”

This law was enacted 60 years ago in the “Jim Crow and Sundown Town” days and segregates unrelated and related persons and married and unmarried persons. We believe this law violates the First, Fifth, Ninth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

· First Amendment: Freedom of Association and Privacy: This law denies individuals the right to choose and maintain certain intimate human relationships, which is encompassed in the Freedom of Association by prohibiting individuals from residing together.

By restricting the number of individuals and defining the categories of persons who may live together, the law intrudes upon an owner’s right to privacy because it limits the classes of people with whom an owner may conduct business.

The law imposes on property owners the duty to determine whether prospective tenants are related by blood, marriage or adoptions. If a property owner would inquire about the nature of the relationships between potential tenants, he would risk accusations that he has violated the Federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it unlawful for anyone “to refuse to sell or rent ... or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familiar status or national origin.”

· Fifth Amendment: Due Process and Takings Clause: This law deprives the property owner the right to establish a home and decide who may reside on his property. It deprives a tenant who has entered into a legally enforceable lease agreement of the right to choose his co-occupants.

This law is not narrowly tailored to further compelling government interest, nor is it rationally related to a legitimate government interest. This law states that no more than three unrelated persons may live together. However, 10 related individuals could reside at an address and not be in violation of the law.

This larger number of related individuals will likely create more issues with overcrowding, traffic and noise problems than four unrelated individuals who live together.

This law denies the property owner economically viable use of his land (the ability to lease the property to more than a set number of unrelated individuals) without just compensation.

· Ninth Amendment: Reservation of Rights: This amendment has been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court to provide for the freedom from intrusion by government into one’s private life.

By restricting the number of individuals and defining the categories of persons who may live together at an owner’s property, the law intrudes upon the owner’s right to privacy, as it limits the classes of people with whom the owner may conduct business.

· Fourteenth Amendment: Due Process Clause: This amendment provides that “no state shall ... Deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” as it places greater restrictions on certain groups of homeowners and residents than it does on other groups.

By placing limitations of the number of and classifications of individuals who may reside together, the law imposes greater limitations on owners who choose to rent their homes.

I have been a property manager/landlord, broker/owner and Realtor for almost 20 years and have been present at approximately 900 closings. At each closing — in addition to the transfer of brick, wood, mortar, shingles, etc.— there is a transfer of the “bundle of rights” from the seller to the buyer.

My question to a property owner who prefers this segregationist law to remain a law is as follows. Why do you believe your “bundle of rights” has more rights in your bundle than your landlord/neighbor next door?

That is not what happens at a title company when a seller signs the deed.

We believe Norman would want to be known as a progressive, forward-thinking and inclusive community and that all citizens have the same “bundle of right,” and this law of discrimination needs to be abolished.

John Lungren lives and works in Norman.

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