From the NY Times:
Doua Moua, 23, played a menacing gangster in a Clint Eastwood movie, but Mr. Moua swears he really is a nice, gentle and rules-abiding fellow. At least he was until he moved to New York City and unwittingly slipped into a world of lawlessness.
From left, Doua Moua, 23, George Summer, 30, and David Everett and Jasmine Ward, both 21, are among six people in a four-bedroom apartment in Hamilton Heights. “It’s part of New York City culture,” Mr. Moua said.
Mr. Moua lives with five roommates. And in New York, home to some of the nation’s highest rents and more than eight million people, many of them single, it is illegal for more than three unrelated people to live in an apartment or a house.
The law, for decades part of the city’s Housing Maintenance Code, is little known, widely broken and infrequently enforced. Three citations have been issued since July, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
When the law is enforced, it is usually because of a complaint from a neighbor or because inspectors spotted a violation while responding to a maintenance problem. The violation is rarely written up unless it is accompanied by a host of others. Rarer still are the tenants who call up the city to turn in their landlord.
The lax enforcement might not be a bad thing, since a sizable number of the city’s denizens, especially its penny-pinched younger residents, have found living with more than two others a financial necessity. According to the Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey, nearly 15,000 dwellings in the city housed three or more roommates who were unrelated to the head of the household. Experts say that number is almost certainly underreported.
Mr. Moua, who played Spider, a bandana-clad villain in “Gran Torino,” never thought twice about moving into the immaculately renovated four-bedroom apartment in Hamilton Heights that half a dozen people call home. The place is lined with track lighting and has two bathrooms. His room costs $850 a month.
He could live by himself in a studio in an outer borough for that much. Silly people.