County Housing Code Pushing College Students Out of Shared Home

Five college students are wondering where they will live next after their landlords were denied a special-use permit allowing the young women to continue occupying a three-bedroom single-family home in northern Georgia. Less than two weeks after moving into the house, neighbors complained that the students were violating a Cobb County ordinance that prohibits more than two unrelated persons from living together in a single-family home.

"I know that typically the stereotype is 'partiers,' and they think we're going to move in and ruin their community," said one of the students, Caitlin Abshier, who is a senior business management major. "That's not our goal. We haven't thrown any parties and we don't plan to throw any parties."

Caitlin Abshier and her sister Brette Abshier, both students at Kennesaw State University, said that they were so excited when they moved into their off-campus rental home in the town of Acworth with friends this summer because it allowed them to live away from the party scene on campus. (The students are pictured above as they first got the keys to their rental.) They may no longer have that choice after a hearing was held on Monday at which Cobb County officials said that all five tenants have to be out by the end of the calendar year or sooner, the sisters told AOL Real Estate.

As was reported in the Marietta Daily Journal, the sisters share a master bedroom of the house, while another tenant lives in its basement, and the other two have their own bedrooms. The owners, who purchased the home (pictured below) in 2010 with the intention of renting it out, live elsewhere. Landlords Jackie Jones and her husband, Michael, did not know they were in violation of county law, she told the Cobb County Planning Commission board members at the public hearing this week.

Jones asked for a special land-use permit to allow the five tenants to remain in the home. Four of Jones' five tenants also spoke at the meeting, the newspaper reported, while residents opposed voiced their concern about their neighborhoods turning into "fraternity rows." Planning commissioners unanimously voted to deny the request, but recommended giving the students until the end of December to vacate the house. The Cobb County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to hear more on the case later this month.

The tenants and the landlord still prefer that the students be allowed to stay until May. In the meantime, the Abshier sisters said that they have been looking for an apartment that they can rent together, and the other young women have been looking for other places as well. "There just isn't much out there," Brette Abshier told AOL Real Estate in a phone interview. "College students move in by the start of the school year and there is not a lot of turnover until school ends," she said.

Her sister added that other rentals also would be more expensive. The five students pay a total of $1,350 in rent each month. That is about $200 per student, making life more affordable than rents on one-bedroom and two-bedrooms apartments in the area that can fetch $600 or more per month. But the students said that it's not the potentially higher rent that's most troubling them.

"What is so discouraging," said 22-year-old Caitlin Abshier, who has her own business, "is the Kennesaw community is saying 'we don't want you.' " Her sister agreed: "It is as if they don't want us to live to our full potential."

Brette Abshier, 20, said that they found the rental by scouting the neighborhood -- and like their current neighbors, they do not want to live on a rowdy street either. "But they are now forcing us to party scenes where kids don't go to bed all night."

Landlord Jackie Jones, who said the students are good tenants and she is very fond of them, said that she felt the other homeowners are just targeting the young women because they are college students, and that her tenants never caused a problem. Jones, who is also an associate professor in the college's school of nursing, told AOL Real Estate that officials told her that this is not an ordinance targeted at college students, yet, she said, the ordinance pertains to just a small residential area not far from the university.

While at this point it seems unlikely to have an impact on the Acworth case, in April 2013, a judge in Louisiana found a similar ordinance restricting unrelated people from renting together in areas zoned A-1 residential -- for single families -- to be unconstitutional and unenforceable. The lawsuit was brought against the city-parish of Baton Rouge by a lawyer and Realtor who argued that it unfairly targets college students, young people and non-traditional families.

Jones told AOL Real Estate that if the students have to move out, the home might sit empty for a few weeks, but she doesn't think she'd have any problem leasing it to a family. "It is an attractive house. It will not take long. But right now my main concern are the girls."