Updated 02/07/2013 05:54 PM
YNN legal expert questions Watertown roommate law
Can the government decide who can live in your home? That's exactly what City of Watertown officials have done. It's an issue we brought to the YNN Legal Eagle, our expert Paul DerOhannesian. As our Brian Dwyer reports, he thinks it'll leave the city open to lawsuits.
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- "Certainly municipalities can do that. Landlords can do that. They can limit the number of people, but there is a limit on how much you can limit people living together."
Earlier this week, we gave our legal expert, Paul DerOhannesian, some time to look at Watertown's decision to no longer allow homeowners to have non-related roommates in a single family home in a residential neighborhood like Thompson Boulevard. He says he was surprised.
"One of the concerns in these types of laws is does it impact people based on their familial status. Familial status is something the law protects," He said. "You can't discriminate against somebody."
What is a family? Can the government make that final decision? Can it stop friends from buying a home? Can it say unmarried couples, straight or same-sex, can't live in a home together? And that's not mentioning the difficulties the economy presents for people who need help with the mortgage.
"Two people who aren't married can't be together," DerOhannesian said. "I think that's a very bold move and likely to be challenged because of the impact of those types of laws are very broad and likely to impact people."
It's not just a homeowner he says can bring this to court. He says a state or federal agency can raise the issue as could someone who wants to rent out a room or their home. It could get costly to everyone, even those not involved.
"This is the type of law that just raises so many questions and issues and also a municipality has to realize they may be buying into a lawsuit," He added. "This may be costing taxpayers’ money to defend it. Is it worth it?"
DerOhannesian says someone renting out a home like this and/or rental agencies could also be named in a lawsuit for trying to enforce this law. That could be a tough situation for them.