tenants' rights when renting a room in california

Tenants’ Rights When Renting a Room in California

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Last Updated on March 18, 2024 by Kelvin Nielsen

Are you renting a room in California? If so, you have certain rights under California lodger laws. Read on to learn more!

In California, a person who rents a room in an owner-occupied house or apartment is known as a lodger.

Under California lodger laws, a person must meet certain conditions to be considered a lodger. Including, rent a house that is also occupied by the property owner, and must not have exclusive possession of the property like a tenant would. (Section § 1946.5 of California laws.

Now, a lodger has fewer rights than a tenant. For example, you don’t have the right to receive a written lease, or even the right to withhold rent payments.

That said, lodgers still enjoy certain rights under California law.

Tenants’ Rights when Renting a Room in California

You have the following rights under the California lodger laws.

#1: A right to live in a habitable dwelling.

As a lodger in California, you have a right to live in a home that meets the basic health and safety codes. The specific requirements that a landlord must meet are outlined under the state’s Implied Warranty of Habitability.

Among other things, your landlord must provide hot water, meet California residential heating requirements, provide working light fixtures, and a home free of cockroaches, termites, or other type of pests. (Here is a guide on

If the landlord doesn’t provide these conditions, the home would be deemed uninhabitable and you would be able to exercise a few legal options, including withholding rent.

#2: A right to live in peace and quiet.

If the landlord you’re renting from lives together with you, they have a right under California lodger laws to enter the room you’re renting at any time and for whatever reason.

They must, however, not harass you or take your personal belongings without permission.

If the landlord you’re renting from doesn’t live with you, then they must abide by California’s landlord entry laws. They must enter for a legitimate reason. Examples of such reasons include to:

  • Inspect the room
  • Make a repair
  • Respond to a maintenance request
  • Show prospective lodgers around

The landlord must also provide you a 24 hours’ advance notice prior to making the scheduled entry. The only exception would be when responding to an emergency.

#3: A right to fair and equal treatment.

As a lodger, you have a right to be treated equally and fairly as per the California fair housing laws. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, the landlord must not discriminate against you on the basis of 7 protected classes. That is, race, color, religion, nationality, sex, familial status, and disability.

Also, California law adds extra protections on the basis of sexual orientation, income source, primary language, marital status, and citizenship status.

#4: A right to be notified prior to a rent increase.

California rent control laws apply to lodgers the same way they do to tenants. As such, your landlord must ensure that they abide by the following rules when raising rent.

  • Only increase the rent twice every twelve months.
  • Not increase it out of discrimination or as a retaliatory tactic.
  • Provide the lodger with a notice of at least 30 days prior to raising it.
  • Provide a 90 days’ notice if increasing the amount by 10% or more.

#5: A right to be notified before lease termination.

California lodger laws require that landlords notify lodgers before terminating their periodic lease. The notice to receive will depend on how long you have rented the room.

If you have rented the room for less than a year, then the landlord must provide you with a notice of at least 30 days. But if you have rented the room for a year or more, then the landlord must provide you with a notice of at least 60 days.

#6: A right to a proper eviction process.

Usually, a landlord must have a reason to evict a tenant from a rental property. Under California law, they can carry out a “just cause” eviction or a “no-fault” eviction process. A landlord cannot try to evict you for no reason.  

The landlord will then need to follow the proper eviction process to remove you from the room. They must not try to evict you by removing your personal belongings, locking you out, or shutting down the utilities.

Evicting a lodger is, however, different from the typical tenant eviction process in California. Some simplified eviction rules apply for lodgers living in a single-family home. To evict you from the room, all the landlord may need to do is serve you a lease termination notice equaling one rent cycle.

For instance, if you pay rent monthly, then the landlord may serve you a 30 days’ eviction notice. If you disregard the notice, the landlord may then call the police to remove you as a trespasser. They may not need to go through the courts to obtain an order to remove you.

#7: A right to the return of your security deposit.

Just like regular tenants, lodgers have a right to the return of their security deposit (or whatever portion remains) after vacating the unit.

And specifically, landlords must return their lodgers’ security deposits within 21 days after leaving. The landlord can, however, make appropriate deductions for things like unpaid rent, unpaid utilities, and for costs of fixing damage exceeding normal wear and tear.

If the landlord does make deductions, they must provide you with receipts and documents for the charges incurred in repairing the unit.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Tenants’ Rights When Renting a Room in California

Q: Can you evict a lodger immediately in California?

A: You cannot evict a lodger immediately in California. Under California lodger laws, a lodger has a right to proper notice before lease termination. The notice must be equivalent to the frequency of rent payment.

If you pay rent on a weekly basis, then the landlord must provide you a 7 days’ advance notice. If paying rent on a monthly basis, then the landlord must provide you a 30 days’ advance notice.

After the notice has expired, you’ll be considered a trespasser and the landlord can call the police to remove you.

Q: What is the difference between a lodger and a tenant in California?

A: The following table summarizes the major differences between lodgers vs. tenants in California.  

A tenant is some who has entered a lease with a landlord either verbally, orally, or has made a payment as rent.A lodger is someone who is renting a room in an owner occupied house where they are the only renter.
Has exclusive possession of the property. The landlord must notify the tenant of their intended entry, serve proper notice, and only enter during normal business hours.Doesn’t have exclusive possession of the property. The landlord can enter the property at any time for whatever reason.
May be able to sublet their rented premises.A lodger doesn’t have a right to sublet their room.
Has all the rights under the California Residential Landlord & Tenant Act.A lodger is considered as an “excluded occupier” under the law. As such, they don’t enjoy as much rights as tenants.
Evicting a tenant requires strict adherence to the state’s eviction laws.Evicting a lodger is simple as they are considered trespassers after the lease termination notice has expired.
Landlords must provide tenants with all necessary safety certifications for electrical and gas appliances.The regulations are less stringent for a lodger in comparison to a tenant.

Q: Can a lodger have guests in California?

A: Yes, a lodger can have guests in California, unless the lease expressly prohibits them from having visitors in their room.

The guest policy can have certain restrictions such as the number of nights a guest can stay, and the length of time they can stay continuously in a 12-month period.


There you have it – tenants’ rights when renting a room in California. If you have reasons to believe any of your rights have been violated, please seek help from a qualified attorney.

Disclosure: The content herein isn’t a substitute for advice from a professional attorney. It’s only meant to serve educational purposes. If you have a specific question, kindly seek expert attorney services.

Sources: California Landlord & Tenant Law, Implied Warranty of Habitability, California Civil Code § 1946.5,