Unmarried Couple Banned From Their Own Home

by Venomous Kate

Did you know that in some towns you need an “occupancy permit” to move into a home you’ve purchased? I didn’t, and apparently one unmarried couple in Black Jack, Missouri didn’t, either.

Worse yet, because the couple doesn’t meet the town’s definition of a “family” (the girlfriend has three children), they can’t move into the home they purchased.

A man, his girlfriend and her three children recently bought a house in Black Jack in north St. Louis County. But because Toi Pruitt and Joe Pulliam and the children don’t meet the town’s definition of a family, they couldn’t get an occupancy permit.

In 2006, Black Jack revised its definition of a family after initially refusing a permit for Fondray Loving, Olivia Shelltrack and their children. That family had filed a federal lawsuit.

The new ordinance allows unmarried couples as long as the children are related to both. None of the children are related to Pulliam.

The city attorney says he’s willing to fight for the ordinance in court.

(Read more about the Loving/Shelltrack lawsuit here.)

According to the city’s website, the occupancy permit exists to “enforces the city’s property maintenance code standards by requiring that an inspection be done to ensure that the house or apartment is safe for occupancy.”

The real irony? If the girlfriend had only one child they’d qualify under the city ordinance (Article V, Sec. 6-76(a))

Family…(3) A group of not more than three (3) persons who need not be related by blood, marriage, adoption or foster care relationship, living together as a single nonprofit housekeeping unit in a dwelling unit…

Can you say “arbitrary and capricious”?

I knew you could.

13 Comments to “Unmarried Couple Banned From Their Own Home”

  1. I have little doubt the ACLU will champion them, just as they did with the Loving/Shelltrack suit.

    How odd to find myself actually cheering the ACLU on for once.

  2. *sputtering* That makes me want to smack some ordinance writers around. Of all the intrusive, twitchy-assed asshattery …

    Grr. I hope that couple can afford to fight this.

    Carolyn Bahms last blog post..47×365, #31 – Jim M.

  3. Is this a relatively new ordinance, or is this some leftover crap from the Jim Crow days, revised and edited for more contemporary forms of asininity?

    CGHills last blog post..A slightly lighter millstone

  4. Here we just finished a holiday that commemorated those who died in the name of freedom. Then we read about laws that sound like the enemies of freedom won after all. Maybe we’re just a nation of schizophrenics…

    Rons last blog post..The Greatest Book Not Written

  5. Hard to say. The article on the earlier, pending lawsuit against Black Jack over the same ordinance says: “Missouri housing laws, like those of at least 18 other states, do not prohibit discrimination based on marital status.”

    So it may very well be a combination of both: the laws have been on the books for a while but have been repeatedly “updated” to their current level of stupidity.

  6. I do think you have a point there, Ron.

  7. You should see some of the permits and ordinances we have here. You need a permit to rent out rooms, though you’re not allowed to offer basement apartments in some places (it happens anyway, but technically it’s illegal). You can also be fined if you let your grass grow too long, if your muffler gets too loud, and my personal favorite, for putting up a neon sign without a permit.

    Sometimes such regulations are designed to keep low class people from moving in and destroying the neighborhood (along with its real estate value), but mainly it’s also to make money. The more permits a town requires of you to do everything from fishing to scratching your own heinie, the more money it makes. 😛

    Lincolns last blog post..Am I late, or just really, really early?

  8. Another example of how the “few” are encroaching upon the rights of the “many.” In my community, if your grass is too long, or you refuse to use weed killer to keep weeds out of your lawn, you can be fined.


    TLCs last blog post..Shhh! Don’t Tell Anyone, It’ll Be Our Secret

  9. My favorite one here is the ordinance requiring a license for having a home security system. It’s a $10 license, but it has to be renewed every June. (Everyone on the same month, no matter when you got yours.)

    If the system goes off and police respond but you’re not licensed it’s a $135 fine.

    Because, you know, those taxes don’t count for squat apparently.

  10. Same here, although our city will go ahead and mow for you then send you a bill for the service (along with the fine). I swear there are some people who figure it’s cheaper to have the city do that three times during the summer than to shell out for their own lawnmowers.

  11. Lots of municipalities have lots of laws stripping property owners of some small subset of their rights, as some of the other commenters have let on.

    There’s a certain inconsistency in thinking some restrictions on property ownership are okay if they’re in line with one’s aesthetics and not okay if they clash.

    Ask me if I know the exact rule in my municipality about when it’s okay to cut down a tree threatening to fall on your car in your driveway and when it’s depriving the region of its historical tree shaded branding. Hint: It’s based on the circumference of the tree as determined by a city official. Yep, the historical trees here have rights that supercede mine.

    And as a point of order, Black Jack is not a small town. It’s a small municipality in St. Louis County, not too far from the city limit itself.

    Brian J.s last blog post..Without A Drought, Papers Find Way To Lament Problematic Weather

  12. You know, I have to say since both of us come from the same area, that I get what they’re trying to do… and yet I like to think that I’m “enlightened” enough to be completely against it.

    Since writing this entry I’ve pondered my own reality:

    1. I paid an exorbitant amount to buy my home.
    2. I specifically chose a home in a “nicer area” of town, knowing I’d pay high-dollar for it, to get away from the “temporary types” (e.g., renters).
    3. I confess I have a bias against “temporary types” to the extent I don’t believe they’re as likely to put in time/effort on things like lawn maintenance (so their weeds don’t encroach on my lawn), home maintenance (so they don’t bring my property value down any lower than the economy has on its own) and shame (as in, renters don’t worry “what will the neighbors think?” as much as people who’ve sunk several hundred thousand dollars into staying put tend to do).
    4. Thanks to the economy, my established, snooty subdivision is increasingly occupied by renters. Now, admittedly, they’re renters paying top-dollar, too: you can’t rent a home in my subdivision for less than $2k per month. But they still don’t seem to worry about “what will the neighbors think?” They have loud parties without informing the folks sharing the street. They let guests from their parties tramp through the backyards of their neighbors (including me, which, frankly, means they’re placing kids’ lives in danger). And they have BIG, LOUD cars they start at all hours of the day and night because they’ve got to go pick up boy- or girl-friends who work at nearby bars.
    5. I hate all of that.
    6. I hate that, on top of an exorbitant mortgage, I’m also paying BIG, HUGE FREAKING PROPERTY TAXES that still don’t insulate me from that kind of behavior. (Nota bene: the owners of the homes that have turned into rental units are writing off their losses. Me? I’m living with mine.)

    Ergo, I do see some “logic” behind trying to exclude unmarried couples from co-habitating in an area populated by homeowners. Which is to say that I understand the goal of the ordinance is to spare that homeowners, who’ve invested big money in long-term residency, from the annoyances of those who have chosen not to/can’t yet invest in remaining in one place.

    But, just because I understand — and obviously would benefit from it — it doesn’t mean that I think it’s right.

    Fact is, supporting legislation or ordinances classifying banning “unmarried couples” because they’re transients likely to diminish property values is as discriminatory and as based on stereotypes as, say, a white lady crossing to the other side of the street just because a black (oops, African-American) youth is walking on the same side of the sidewalk.

  13. Our town doesn’t allow one to own buffalo.

    I guess there was a real big problem with random buffalo herds holding up traffic and eating peoples bushes and leaving large “presents” all around

    There is a herd of buffalo at a farm the town next door.

    kimschs last blog post..June is Busting Out All Over