This article was posted on Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014

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

A tenant is someone that rents or leases a residential rental unit from a landlord. The tenant has exclusive use and possession of the property during the lease or rental period. On the other hand, a lodger is a person who lives in a room in the same house as the owner. The owner can enter all areas of the home occupied by the lodger and retains overall control of the house. Although some of the rules pertaining to lodgers and tenants are different, most lodgers have the same rights as tenants.  

Q:  I am a young woman living in a single family home and have decided that I need to rent one of my rooms out to help with my expenses. If possible, I would prefer to rent to another female around my age. Can I be selective when considering potential applicants?

Yes, because you are going to live in the house with the potential new roommate. A person who lives in a room in a house where the owner lives is called a lodger. This person will pay you rent to use a particular room, but they would then share designated common areas with you. In this specific situation, you may be more selective and choose a female applicant because you feel more comfortable living with a female rather than a male. However, keep in mind that if you do not plan to live in the house then different rules apply.


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Q:  I own a home in San Diego and decided to move my significant other in with me. She has one room to herself and also has access to the whole house. Things are not working out and we never had a formal lease/rental agreement. Can I evict her without going through the unlawful detainer process?

Your girlfriend would be considered a lodger. When you rent to a single lodger in a home where there are no other lodgers, the landlord can evict the lodger without employing formal eviction proceedings. One of the main aspects differentiating a lodger from a tenant is the homeowner’s right to use “self-help” to evict a lodger. The landlord can terminate the occupancy by giving the lodger written notice of their intention to end the tenancy. You must give the lodger notice to vacate that is the same length as the number of days between rent payments. For example, if the tenancy is month-to-month, the landlord must give the lodger 30 days’ advance written notice that they can no longer continue to use the room. The landlord must make diligent attempts to serve the notice in the following order before resorting to posting and mailing or certified mail: (1) delivering a copy to the tenant personally; (2) leaving a copy with some person of suitable age and discretion and sending a copy via U.S. mail; (3) by affixing a copy in a conspicuous place on the property and sending a copy via U.S. mail; or (4) sending a copy by certified or registered mail, restricted delivery, to the other party, with a return receipt requested.

Once the landlord has properly served the lodger with written notice to vacate and the notice period has expired, the lodger no longer has a right to remain on the property and may be removed as a trespasser.  

Q:  I am renting one of the rooms in my home out to a college student and we currently share a mailbox. Several weeks ago, he accused me of going through his personal mail and demanded that I provide him with a secure mailbox. Am I required by law to provide lodgers with a private mailbox?

Yes, under California law you are required to provide your renter with a locking mailbox that is consistent with the United States Postal Service standards. The implied warranty of habitability requires landlords to maintain their rental units in a condition fit for the “occupation of human beings.” Additionally, the rental unit must “substantially comply” with building and housing code standards that materially affect tenants’ health and safety. In accordance with these requirements, each unit must have its own locking mailbox. If you fail to provide your renter with an individual locking mailbox you are violating the implied warranty of habitability. Thus, you should provide your lodger with a secure mailbox.  

Attorney Franco Simone, of the Landlords Legal Center and has been doing evictions for 20 years.  He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego.  Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday- Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. –  Tel: 619-235-6180, website: or email [email protected].









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