The Norman Transcript

March 4, 2014

Three-persons unrelated law is useful

By Richard Hall
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The Norman Transcript published an article Feb. 13 regarding a discussion during the City Council Oversight Committee on the three-persons unrelated law that protects single-family neighborhoods. This law prohibits more than three unrelated individuals from occupying a home in a single-family neighborhood.

One individual, a local real estate dealer, broker, property manager and landlord proclaimed during this discussion that the law is an “ugly ordinance that may violate (the) fair housing law.” He further proclaimed that the law should be abolished. He obviously does not understand the full ramifications of this ordinance.

The discussion focused on students living in single-family neighborhoods. However, students are not the sole population the ordinance addresses, and all elements within our city should be considered in making decisions on these issues.

Here is a detailed actual example. Our quiet, single-family neighborhood had a large home leased to four individuals who signed the lease agreement with the private owner who lived in Tulsa.

I contacted the Norman ordinance enforcement officer when the volume of cars visiting and staying at the home appeared excessive. They advised me the proper approach was to document and report the situation. With evidence, they would approach the occupants and owner.

I followed the ordinance enforcement officer’s instructions. I documented each vehicle type and tag number, along with the date and time of the day. The vehicles over the six-month period were the same vehicles appearing at different times during the week.

The volume of different cars parked in the driveway, on both sides of the street and on the lawn reached a total of 45 vehicles over a six-month period. Many were parked in the wrong direction on both sides of the street.

Since the same 45 vehicles were showing up at multiple times, I resorted to taking pictures, beginning at 5 a.m. to document their presence. Many vehicles would leave around 6 a.m. and return late in the evening.

My meetings with the ordinance enforcement officer kept him informed of the situation, along with providing him documentation. He repeatedly brought the situation to the attention of the owner, who did little to alleviate the situation.

Once the owner became aware of the “three person” ordinance, he immediately had three of the individuals sign a new lease agreement and destroyed the old one, apparently in an attempt to protect himself.

The occupants, when advised that the volume of cars on the street created a hazard, drove their cars over the curb and across the lawn to park in the back yard.  The occupants and the owner displayed an arrogant attitude in complying with the ordinance.

The ordinance enforcement officer worked diligently to bring the situation into compliance with the ordinance, to no avail.

It was evident legal action would be necessary to correct the situation. The ordinance enforcement officer and I met with the city attorney and presented the evidence I had collected, along with statements from the officer as to the efforts he had made to collect the situation.

The city attorney deemed it sufficient to proceed with legal actions. I agreed to appear as a witness, if needed.

Notices were served to the occupants signing the lease to pay a fine and correct the situation or appear in court. One occupant left town, and two paid a fine and vacated the property. The Norman city ordinance enforcement officer has a complete set of documentation on this event.

The home occupants were not all students — if any were students at all. Some vehicles had a Norman High School sticker in the window. Some had a commercial logo on them. Some had out-of-state license tags. The condition of the property began to deteriorate when viewed from the outside.

Students are not necessarily the problem. “Entrepreneurs” can lease a home and charge their “friends” for staying with them while in town. We have motels for these “friends,” and the motels pay the city a tax.

Gangs of unrelated individuals can lease a home and create a haven for transients, gambling operations, dealing in guns and drugs, and even human trafficking.

This letter is to point out that the “three-person unrelated” ordinance provided the basis for correcting a situation that, left uncorrected, would have resulted in deterioration of our neighborhood.

It provides a basis for publicly available, visible evidence to present to the ordinance enforcement officer for further investigation. Otherwise, collecting evidence for intervention would be extremely more difficult.

The “three unrelated person” ordinance serves many purposes. Maybe it should be reduced to “two unrelated persons” and serve more purposes. Definitely it should not be abolished and open the doors to Norman becoming a haven for a variety of “entrepreneurs.”

Richard C. Hall lives in Norman.

Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.