Roommates and Houseguests

Laws about Roommates and Houseguests in California

This is a guide to the basics of the rules for roommates and houseguests in a rental unit. It can be complicated so be sure to speak to a lawyer for your situation.

Also be sure to read our full Guide to Tenants Rights.


Can I legally kick out my roommate?

Unfortunately it’s not an easy answer. In general, you cannot just physically remove your roommate (that could be considered assault or battery), and you can’t just change the locks. Perhaps if you reason with your roommate that it’s not working out (or beg them to leave), they may leave quietly and that could be the end of it. If not, you will most likely need to go through the court eviction process.

If your roommate is on the lease with your landlord, then you will need to go to the landlord to discuss removing your roommate, and the landlord would need to handle the court eviction process.

If your roommate is NOT on the lease with your landlord, but they pay rent directly to the landlord, they may be considered a co-tenant. Which means, again, the landlord would need to handle the eviction.

If your roommate is NOT on the lease with your landlord (and you are on the lease), but they pay rent to YOU (not the landlord), or they don’t pay any rent but you agreed to let them live there, then you may have an implied sublease or sublet with your roommate (or you may have created an actual sublease or sublet with your roommate). Your roommate would then be your “sub-tenant.” If that is the case, you would need to go to court to evict them and show either that your roommate violated the terms of your “sublease” or that there was no specific time period for the tenancy and thus you can terminate it at any time.

But if your lease with the landlord says you can’t have people living there who are not on the lease (which is common), then you may be violating your own lease, and YOU could be evicted!

Bottom line, it’s complicated and really depends on your particular situation, so you may want to get some legal help.

NOTE: If your roommate is threatening you with violence or otherwise doing dangerous illegal activities, call the police.


When does a houseguest become a tenant?

Again look at your lease. But if it doesn’t specify, generally in California a “houseguest” becomes a “tenant” after 30 days.

Can I legally kick out my house guest?

If your houseguest has been there less than 30 days, you can tell them to leave. If they do not leave, they are “trespassing,” and you can call the police to have them removed.

If your houseguest has been there 30 days or more, they become a tenant (even if they haven’t paid any rent), and removing them is more complicated (see Roommate section below).

Can a landlord evict me and/or my house guest if the house guest isn’t on the lease?

First, read your Lease/Rental Agreement (see above) to determine what it says on this; usually what an agreement says on this is enforceable and if you violate it, yes you and your houseguest(s) can be evicted. If the agreement doesn’t discuss this issue, the general rule in California is that you are allowed to have a person stay at your apartment as long as the person doesn’t violate any of the terms of the lease. But you can’t have more occupants than is legal under zoning laws (usually no more than 2 per room).

(Note: be sure to read our Guide to Eviction)

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