California Laws Concerning Boarding Houses

Any house can be turned into a boarding house as long as the landlord obeys California law.
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Are you thinking about becoming a landlord and starting a boarding house? A "boarding house" could be as simple as renting out a room in your house, or as complex as purchasing a separate house with the intention of renting out all of its individual rooms. Regardless of the structure of your boarding home, the same laws will apply to you that apply to all renters and landlords.


There is no strict guideline or checklist that determines what constitutes a habitable environment, but roughly speaking, anything that affects a person's ability to live inside your boarding house could violate California tenant law. Faulty plumbing, defective windows, or peeling paint could potentially create an inhabitable environment. The landlord must also provide access to a bathroom and a kitchen. In cases where habitability is affected, renters can move out without notice, have building inspectors look at the unit, or repair the defects themselves and deduct the cost from rent owed. It is in the landlord's best interest to keep rented units repaired and to respond quickly to tenant complaints.

Rental Agreements

Before a tenant can move into a boarding house in California, a rental agreement must be agreed upon by both the landlord and the renter. This will legally protect both parties against undue action from the other. The rental agreement will state the length of tenancy, or the lease, the amount of the rent, when the rent payments are due, any late charges, and a description of the rental unit. In California, a written or oral rental agreement can be used, but in the case of a dispute, an oral agreement will offer no hard proof stating the original rental terms.


If you own the boarding house and are currently living in it, a person renting a single room is called a "lodger" under California law. Lodgers are protected by most laws that protect other renters, but the owner may enter any space the lodger rents due to her status as resident and owner of the property. It is also possible to evict a lodger without following strict proceedings. Notice must be given in advance equal to the amount of time between due dates of rental payments -- for instance, 30 days if rent is due monthly -- after which the lodger can be removed as a trespasser. However, this only works in the case of a single resident in the boarding house.

Miscellaneous Laws

Under California law, a landlord may refuse residency to a renter if the renter has a pet. Lodging may not be refused on the grounds of pet ownership if the pet is a qualified and certified service animal. If the residence was built after 1972, residency may not be denied due to the lodger owning a waterbed. The landlord is legally allowed to supervise the installation of the bed. Landlords are also required to provide wiring for a telephone line.