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 the number of people allowed in the unit, then they may move-in.
If the tenant never had a lease or rental agreement or other 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 lie in the unit, still apply.
There are exceptions to the terms of tenancy under the eviction section of the Ordinance for one occupant in addition to the lease if it is a spouse, domestic partner or other close relative (more information about additional occupants).
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.
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. Otherwise, the tenant may not have cause to ask the roommate to leave if sharing the space becomes difficult after the roommate is in.
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.
When the Tenant Moves Out
Subtenants do not necessarily have any claim to a rental unit if the tenants on the lease have all moved out.
When the last tenant named on the lease 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 Rent Stabilization & Housing Division at (323) 848-6450.