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Guest or Tenant? How to Deal with Someone Who Won’t Leave

What happens when somebody pays you to stay in a room short term and then doesn’t want to leave? That happened to one of our clients. She offered a place to stay in her home since hotel rates were so high. The person agreed to pay $600 for the short-term use of a bedroom. Now she won’t leave and claims she is a tenant. Is she? What rights does she have? And what recourse does the homeowner have?

Who Has the Rights of a Tenant?

In California, renters who occupy a property for more than 30 consecutive days are considered full-time tenants on a month-to-month lease with rights to occupancy protected under the state’s tenant law. (There are differences for hotels and motels.)

From what our client shares, the person who was staying at her home was to occupy one room of a home for less than 30 days. Because her stay was not more than 30 consecutive days, she is not a tenant. She falls instead into the category of a “transient guest.”

Transient guests are individuals who stay at a property for a relatively short period of time with no intent of establishing permanent residency. A tenant, on the other hand, rents property intending to become a long-term resident, and the property is her or her mailing address and “home.”

This person could also be considered a lodger:

A person renting a room in a house under the direct supervision and control of the owner is a lodger, not a tenant, where the owner furnishes and attends the rooms and retains room keys personally or through the owner’s employees. (Stowe v. Fritzie Hotels 1955) 44 Cal. 2d 416).

In neither case, is the guest a tenant, as she claims. Because she does not have the rights of a tenant and refuses to leave, she can also be considered a trespasser.

What Can an Owner Do About a Guest Claiming Tenancy?

Even though this does not appear to be a landlord-tenant situation, there is a legal process for removing unwanted guests who refuse to leave.

In these situations, it is best to consult an attorney because tenancy laws vary. While California law says that renters who occupy a property for more than 30 consecutive days are considered full-time tenants on a month-to-month lease with rights, other locations may have different length-of-stay requirements. And while accepting money from a guest doesn’t always create a tenant situation, it can raise red flags if you get into a sticky situation.

If you are a CRES client and get into a sticky situation with tenant issues, report it to the CRES ClaimPrevent® Hotline. The hotline is available to our clients 7 days a week to help with any issues that put you at risk.


What questions do you have about establishing tenancy aside from outside a formal lease?

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