Disabled Tenants and Live-in Caregivers

The Federal Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the California State Law Against Discrimination, and local fair housing laws require that housing owners and managers provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and residents who have disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are changes in rules, policies, practices, or services that are necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. Allowing tenants who have disabilities to utilize the assistance of live-in caregivers is a reasonable

What is a Disability?

  Under fair housing laws, a person is considered to be disabled if s/he has a sensory, mental or physical condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as walking, seeing, hearing, working, etc.). The state law definition includes disabilities that are temporary or permanent, common or uncommon, mitigated or unmitigated. 


Although there is no definition of a live-in caregiver in the fair housing laws, regulations for HUD-subsidized housing provide a useful definition. Using the HUD regulations as guidance, a live-in caregiver may be defined as a person who resides with a person(s) with disabilities2 who is:

  • essential to the care and well being of the person(s);

  • not obligated to support the person(s) with the disabilities; and

  • would not be living in the unit except to provide the necessary supportive services.

Although a live-in caregiver is an occupant of the unit, the caregiver is not considered a tenant for the purpose of income qualification and is not liable for paying rent. Because a live-in caregiver only lives in the unit for the purpose of providing supportive services for a person with a disability, the caregiver has no right to continue living in the unit if the tenant with the disability moves out.

HUD uses the term “live-in aide.

 Residents of HUD-subsidized housing who are elderly or near-elderly also may request live-in aides. For more information about this, contact the housing authority or HUD-assisted property owner.

Can a Landlord verify that a live-in caregiver is necessary?

Yes. Housing providers are entitled to verify:

  1. the existence of the disability if it is not readily apparent,

  2. the need for the accommodation if it is not readily apparent, and

  3. that the caregiver is qualified to provide the supportive services that are needed because of the disability.

If you or your manager asks for this verification, the tenant should obtain a signed letter from his/her doctor or other medical professional, or other qualified third party who, in their professional capacity, has knowledge about the disability and the Tenant's need for the caregiver. The Tenant does not have to provide details about the disability or about the specific supportive services that the caregiver will provide.
NOTE: A verification letter stating that the caregiver would be “nice” or “helpful” is insufficient.

What if my caregiver is a relative?

There is no rule against a relative being the tenant's live-in caregiver provided the caregiver is essential to the Tenant's care and well being, not obligated to support him/her, and would not be living in the unit except to provide the necessary supportive services. If the Tenant's live-in caregiver is a relative, it would be reasonable for a landlord to follow HUD’s policy of requiring the relative to sign a statement prior to moving into the unit relinquishing all rights to the unit in the event that the Tenant decides to move out. 

Are live-in caregivers to be listed on the lease as an Occupant, but not as a Lessee – not responsible for the terms and financial aspects of the lease?

If you wish to list a live-in caregiver on the lease, it would be as an occupant and not as a lessee.
The Tenant is responsible for a caregiver's behavior on the premises whether or not the caregiver lives in the unit. If ;the Tenant knows, or has reason to know, that the caregiver is engaging in wrong-doing, the Tenant has an obligation to do something about it. If he/she does nothing, the you may be able to take action against the Tenant

What happens if the Tenant moves out and the caregiver refuses to move?

In some cases, a caregiver may wish to remain as a resident and you can require the live-in caregiver to submit a rental application and meet the standard tenancy qualifications. If, however, the caregiver refuses to move or to apply for tenancy, the you can follow the start the process for eviction.
It's important that you remember when starting the eviction process, you are evicting the Tenant, even if the Tenant has vacated.
If the Tenant was occupying under a Lease, and the Lease has expired, then the eviction process can start without any notice.

If the Lease has expired an the tenant has remained paying rent, then the lease has converted to a Month to Month Tenancy, and you will most likely be giving the Tenant a 3 Day Notice to Pay or quit.  If you accept rent from the Care Giver after the Tenant has vacated, you have created a month to month tenancy with the Care Giver, in which case you will need to serve a 30 day notice terminating a Month to Month Tenancy, prior to commencing the eviction process.