This question often arises when discussing housing arrangements on college campus grounds – Are fraternity houses considered multi-family dwellings? Fraternities are an integral part of the college experience, and groups of students numbering anywhere between 20 to 100 will require communal housing. But how exactly does this living arrangement fit into the classification of multifamily properties? That is what we will be discussing in this blog.
Understanding Fraternity Houses
Fraternity houses are generally residential properties that are owned or leased by a fraternity organization which then serves as a common living area for their members. Due to the large number of members in most fraternities, these houses often have to have shared living spaces, bedrooms, kitchens, and other common facilities for both socializing and studying. It is through these living arrangements that a sense of community and brotherhood is fostered among fraternity members.
But does that make this property multifamily real estate? To understand this, we need to break down what exactly multi-family means.
Is a Fraternity House Multi or Single Family?
Let’s break down what defines multifamily properties. Generally, multifamily properties refer to residential buildings that house multiple separate living units, each capable of housing an individual family. These properties include apartment buildings, townhouses, or even duplexes. On the other hand, when we think about fraternity or sorority housing, these properties are housing members of a single “family” under one roof. All the members have to share common spaces and facilities, without the property being divided into individual units.
Based on these characteristics, a fraternity house does not necessarily fit into the traditional definition of a multifamily property. Instead, they act as a hybrid version of both single-family and multifamily dwellings, which is why it can be difficult to identify which category they fall under. Even though fraternity houses accommodate a larger number of individuals similar to multifamily housing, their primary purpose is to provide a shared living space for all members. This is a completely different arrangement than having separate households for each person, and so by definition, we can determine that fraternity housing is not multifamily real estate.
Aside from identifying the type of property it is, we also have to factor in local zoning regulations to ensure the legality of the property in the local area. The classification of fraternity houses can vary across different jurisdictions owing to local regulations and zoning ordinances.
In some areas, there are regulations that govern communal living arrangements and limits to occupancy. Zoning ordinances can also decide on the number of individuals that are allowed to occupy a single dwelling. These factors can potentially influence the recognition of fraternity houses as legal property within those zonal areas.
Both the fraternity leadership as well as university administrations need to familiarize themselves with these local regulations. Open communication between the relevant authorities is required to avoid any potential legal implications.
Additionally, depending on the area, there are some factors that will determine whether the property is considered single or multi-family:
- The number of unrelated people (to the members) who live on the property
- Is the property being used for both residential and non-residential purposes?
- Does the size of the house correspond with the number of living persons?
- The density of the surrounding neighborhood
As such, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to identifying whether a fraternity house is multi-family. It is heavily dependent on local regulations, so your best bet is to contact the relevant authorities and get these questions answered.
How Will Zoning Laws Affect Fraternity Houses?
The following areas will again depend heavily on local zoning laws. Depending on whether the fraternity house is considered a multi-family or single-family dwelling, you need to keep these in mind:
- Noise ordinances – In some areas, the rules for noise ordinances are stricter for multifamily dwellings than for single-family. This means that a fraternity house could be subjected to fines or other penalties if they make too much noise. For example, the jurisdiction may prohibit noise that can be heard from 50 feet away after 10 pm. This means that the fraternity could be fined if their parties are too loud.
- Parking restrictions – Again, the rules for parking restrictions are stricter for multifamily properties than for single-family. This means that fraternity houses would be obligated to have more parking spaces than single-family homes. On the other hand, if it is determined to be a single-family home, then the fraternity could be fined for having too many vehicles parked on that property.
- Other regulations – There could be specific regulations that apply to multi-family housing. For example, a fraternity house may need to have sprinkler systems or fire alarms installed.
- The sale of alcohol – Depending on the zoning laws for multifamily dwellings, the ability of a fraternity house to sell alcohol may be affected. In some areas, it is illegal to sell alcohol in multifamily properties. This could mean that if a fraternity house is considered to be multifamily, then they would not be able to hold parties where alcohol is served.
When it comes to all types of residential properties, fraternity houses fall into a unique position, dividing the line between multifamily and single-family housing. While they may not fit the standard definition of multifamily properties, owing to the large number of members, they should be considered multifamily. However, it ultimately comes down to the local regulations and zoning laws in the area.