How to get rid of a long-term houseguest?

UPDATED: Apr 25, 2011

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How to get rid of a long-term houseguest?

My brother owns a home and for the past 5 years, initially out of charity, has had a friend living there. No rental/cohabitation agreement exists. Over this time their relationship has evolved to where friend shops/cooks/does chores in exchange for a room to stay. Certain areas of home are mutually used (e.g. kitchen/yard). Relationship entirely non-sexual and has now soured. My brother wants this “friend” to leave. However the friend has refused and brother is unable to physically remove him. Can my brother involve the police or must legal action be taken?

Asked on April 25, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If this friend pays no rent (or for food, utilities, etc) he is not a "tenant" under the law (although arguably the chores may qualify as a form of rent).  If this person is not a legal tenant, then since they were was allowed to live in the premises with permission, they will be considered to be a "licensee".  Either way, your brother will have to file an unlawful detainer action (i.e. eviction) to legally remove them from his home.

He now needs to give the friend a written notice to vacate (typically 30 days).  If they do not leave by the date specified, he can then file an unlawful detainer action (i.e. eviction) in court.  The friend will then be ordered by the judge to vacate the premises.  If they don't, then the sheriff will remove them (forcibly if necessary).  In the meantime your brother should not undertake any "self-help" measures such as changing the locks or removing this person's belongings. If he does he could find himself on the wrong side of a lawsuit. 

At this point, he should contact a real estate attorney that specializes in landlord/tenant matters. Experienced legal counsel can best advise as to the correct procedures for all of this. Your brother can also contact the local court to see if they have a pamphlet/website that gives relevant information.  Hereis a site that he may find to be of help:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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