Adding a Roommate to a Tenancy
Generally, whether or not a tenant may have a roommate is settled by the lease. Leases limit the number of occupants, name specific occupants, prohibit subletting or have many other ways of limiting a tenant's right to rent part of the unit to another party. Tenants should read their lease or rental agreement carefully before looking for a roommate. If the roommate complies with restrictions on occupants allowed in the unit, then they may move-in.
If the tenant never had a lease or rental agreement or other written understanding with the landlord, a tenant may have a roommate move-in. Tenants should beware: when a lease "expires" only the term during which conditions can't be changed expires. After the "term" of the lease expires, its conditions continue to apply to the tenant. When the "lease expires", any conditions limiting who may live in the unit, still apply.
Occupants Allowed in Addition to the Lease/Rental Agreement
Tenants may be vulnerable to eviction if they have more people living with them than their lease specifies. However, the Ordinance provides that one person in addition to those permitted in the lease may live with a tenant if it is their spouse, registered domestic partner, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, brother or sister. If a tenant has a multiple birth while residing in a unit, all children resulting from that birth (twins, triplets, etc) may live in the unit in excess of the lease terms. The tenant must notify the landlord in writing about the additional person and state the nature of the relationship.
The spouse/domestic partner/relative does not have a claim to continue as tenants when the last tenant on the original lease moves out unless the additional person has lived with the tenant for more than a year and the tenant has died or become incapacitated. If this is the case the surviving person assumes the tenant's lease.
Otherwise, the relatives need to move-out at the time the tenant vacates or the landlord may treat the unit as vacant and demand a credit check, new lease, increased rent and new security deposit from the additional occupant.
The tenant may also have a full-time live-in assistant for medical purposes certified by the tenant's physician as one additional occupant. The live-in assistant must move out of the unit when the tenant vacates it - no matter why the tenant vacates the unit.
Tenant Responsibilities to Roommates
When a tenant accepts rent from a roommate in West Hollywood, the roommate is the tenant's subtenant and has a right to the protections under the Ordinance that a tenant has. Thus, a tenant may not:
- ask a subtenant to leave the unit without having cause under the Ordinance and without following the procedures for evicting a tenant;
- ask a subtenant to pay more than the Maximum Allowable Rent on a unit;
- increase a subtenant's rent by more than the annual general adjustment each year and not above the tenant's MAR in any case;
- increase the security deposit after a subtenant's move-in or charge fees not allowed under the Ordinance.
If a tenant is looking for a roommate to help pay the rent, the tenant should be very careful in choosing a roommate. If relations don't work out in the unit and the roommate decides that they want to continue their tenancy anyway, the tenant will have to go through the eviction process to remove the roommate from the unit.
Tenants should also understand that they may not enter areas of the unit that they have rented to the roommate or subtenant for their private use without giving reasonable notice for specific causes. So, you must respect your roommates right to privacy once they are in the unit.
Tenant Responsibilities to the Landlord for Roommates
The tenant remains responsible for paying the rent. The landlord does not have to accept rent payments from a roommate. If the roommate cannot pay their portion of the unit rent, the tenant will be responsible for the full amount to the landlord.
The landlord can also hold the tenant responsible for any problems caused by the roommate as part of the tenant's household, including damage to the property, nuisance behavior or illegal activities. The landlord would give the tenant a notice to have the household cease violating the lease, causing a nuisance, etc. If the roommate did not desist, the landlord could evict all the occupants of the unit if the roommate's behavior gave sufficient cause.
Thus, the tenant should also established clear, written conditions of tenancy with the roommate that both parties sign - if they don't sign a month-to-month rental agreement. The terms should be the same as the tenant's terms with the landlord ? at minimum. Otherwise, the tenant may not have cause to ask the roommate to leave if sharing the space becomes difficult after the roommate is in.
When the Tenant Moves Out
Subtenants do not necessarily have any claim to a rental unit if the tenants on the lease have all given notice and moved out.
When the last tenant named on the lease gives notice and moves out, there is a vacancy if:
- the landlord never accepted rent payments from the remaining roommate(s); or
- the remaining roommates moved-in after 1995 and the subtenant was in the unit in violation of the lease when the landlord accepted the rent.
If the tenant on the lease has given written notice that they are moving out, the landlord may ask the subtenant to move or treat them as new tenants. The landlord could require an application, new lease, any rent the landlord wants to demand, new security deposit, etc. So subtenants should be prepared to move if the last tenant on the original lease has given notice to the landlord.
For further questions about having roommates in rent-stabilized units, you may contact an Information Coordinator in the Division at (323) 848-6450.