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Can a landlord prevent a tenant from hiring a live-in caregiver?

Landlords must provide tenants with a disability, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, with reasonable accommodations. This requirement is set out in a few key laws:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA).
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • Other state and local laws.

You may be required to allow a live-in caregiver if a tenant has a disability and needs one. You might, however, bypass the requirement if it creates an undue burden on you and your rental business.

You may require a tenant to prove their need before allowing a live-in caregiver if your Lease Agreement limits the number of occupants. The tenant typically does not have to tell you the details of their disability or the help the caregiver will provide. You may, however, ask for a signed letter from their primary doctor or other qualified person stating:

  • The tenant has a disability.
  • The tenant needs help.
  • The chosen caregiver is qualified to provide the services needed to support the tenant with their disability.

Without proof that the tenant needs a live-in caregiver, you might need to resort to legal action. If having a live-in caregiver violates the Lease Agreement, consider asking a lawyer about your options. Talk to a lawyer before acting to prevent a tenant from hiring, or evicting, a live-in caregiver. These are sensitive matters and there may be state or local laws that limit a landlord’s options.

How can I handle live-in caregivers and Lease Agreements?

In most areas, live-in caregivers are not legally tenants, and are not responsible for paying rent or utilities. However, the tenant usually must still pay the full amount of the rent. Caregivers may often be listed as occupants, rather than lessees or tenants, on the Lease Agreement. You can add them either by writing a new lease or by changing the existing one.

You may require approval and run a criminal background check on a prospective live-in caregiver to keep your rental property and other tenants safe. You can also contact the agency that the caregiver works for, if applicable, to ask about licensing, insurance, or bonding. Consider talking to a lawyer before making any changes to your lease or policies, or before denying a tenant’s prospective caregiver.

You might choose to increase the rent if you write a new lease or amend the current one. For example, if you cover the cost of utilities, it is usually reasonable to increase that part of the rent through a Lease Amendment when an additional person will be living there.

It is usually not a good idea to write a blanket rule against live-in caregivers in your lease. Doing so could lead to claims of discrimination. You can, however, limit the number of people who live in each unit. You can also place reasonable limits on the workers and guests of tenants. For example, letting a second person live in a studio apartment designed for a single person may not be a reasonable accommodation.

Does a live-in caregiver have tenant rights?

Live-in caregivers are paid to do a job and typically do not have tenant rights. This means they usually do not have the right to stay in the rental unit if the tenant moves out or dies. In some areas, live-in caregivers, and other live-in service workers, do have limited rights. These rights cover the ability to stay after being fired or after their client dies. Live-in caregivers may be entitled to tenant rights similar to those of subtenants if they pay rent or are given room and board as compensation.

Sometimes, a live-in caregiver will want to become a tenant. They may fill out a Rental Application, much like any other applicant. If the original tenant moves out or passes away, the caregiver can choose to stay as a regular tenant. As the landlord, you can usually decide whether to approve this tenant in the same way you would with any other applicant.

Can I evict a live-in caregiver?

In most areas, live-in caregivers are not necessarily tenants, even if they live on your property. A live-in caregiver is not a tenant unless you both agree that they are and they have signed a Lease Agreement. The tenant is usually responsible for their caregiver’s behavior, as they would be for a subtenant or another service worker. You, as the landlord, may take legal action against the tenant for problems caused by their caregiver. But it is good to keep in mind that tenants who need a live-in caregiver may not know how to hold their caregiver responsible.

As a landlord, your options are limited. You can try informally communicating the issues to the tenant. You might also try reporting the issues to the caregiver’s agency, if there is one. If that does not work, you may need to escalate the situation by giving your tenant an Eviction Notice. While it may sound drastic, this may be the most practical option if the tenant does not or cannot correct the caregiver's behavior. At the same time, this may not always make sense or be fair to the tenant. However, the caregiver is the tenant’s worker, and the tenant is ultimately responsible.

What if the tenant, or a person who has Power of Attorney over the tenant, fires the caregiver and they refuse to leave? In general, the tenant must act to remove the caregiver, as they would to remove a guest or evict a subtenant from their property.

You may need to evict a caregiver if they do not leave after a tenant moves out or passes away. When doing so, it is wise to review the particular tenant-landlord laws in your state and get help from an attorney.

Landlord-tenant law can be confusing enough without the added complications of live-in service workers. If you have legal questions about what your tenants are doing or your rights, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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