Guide to Laws for Short Term Rental Guests and Hotel Guests in California

Hotel Guests and Short-Term Rental Guests

Are guests of a hotel or short term rental (Airbnb) considered tenants in California?

If you are a guest or resident in a hotel, motel, or short-term vacation rental (like Airbnb or VRBO etc) you do not have the rights of a tenant if you are in any of the following situations:

1. You live in a hotel, motel, residence club, or other short-term lodging facility for 30 days or less, and your occupancy is subject to the state’s hotel occupancy tax.

2. You live in a hotel, motel, residence club, or other lodging facility for more than 30 days, but have not paid for all room and related charges owed by the 30th day.

3. You live in a hotel or motel to which the manager has a right of access and control, and all of the following is true:

  • The hotel or motel allows occupancy for periods of fewer than 7 days.
  • All of the following services are provided for all residents:
    • a fireproof safe for residents’ use;
    • a central telephone service;
    • maid, mail, and room service; and
    • food service provided by a food establishment that is on or next to the hotel or motel grounds and that is operated in conjunction with the hotel or motel.

If any of the above is true, you are considered a guest, and you do not have the same rights as a tenant. For example, a hotel manager can lock out a guest who does not pay their room charges on time, while a landlord must instead follow formal eviction proceedings to evict a nonpaying tenant.

Residential Hotels

What is a residential hotel?

A residential hotel is any building containing 6 or more guestrooms designed, used, rented or occupied for sleeping purposes by guests, and which serves as the primary residence of those guests.

Are guests of residential hotels considered tenants in California?

If a residential hotel serves as your primary residence, you have many of the same legal rights as a tenant. In particular, a locking mail box must be provided for each guest of a residential hotel.

Can a manager of a residential hotel require a guest to move or check out and check in before 30 days?

It is illegal for the manager of a residential hotel to require a guest to move or to check out and re-register before the guest

has lived there for 30 days, if their purpose is to have the guest maintain transient occupancy status (and, therefore, not gain the legal rights of a tenant). A person who violates this law may be subject to a $500 civil penalty and may be required to pay the guest’s attorney fees.1California Civil Code Sec 1940.1: (a) No person may require an occupant of a residential hotel, as defined in Section 50519 of the Health and Safety Code, to move, or to check out and reregister, before the expiration of 30 days occupancy if a purpose is to have that occupant maintain transient occupancy status pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 1940. Evidence that an occupant was required to check out and reregister shall create a rebuttable presumption, which shall affect solely the burden of producing evidence, of the purpose referred to in this subdivision.
(b) In addition to any remedies provided by local ordinance, any violation of subdivision (a) is punishable by a civil penalty of five hundred dollars ($500). In any action brought pursuant to this section, the prevailing party shall be entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees.
(c) Nothing in this section shall prevent a local governing body from establishing inspection authority or reporting or recordkeeping requirements to ensure compliance with this section.

Further Resources

See our Guide to Laws for Tenants in California

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  • Tristan Blaine

    Tristan Blaine is the founder of Law Soup Media, and has been a licensed attorney since 2013.

    About Tristan


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