How California Law Views Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Homes

As a property owner, at some point you might find yourself concerned about residential substance abuse treatment homes. Perhaps you’ve just learned that one of these facilities exists in your neighborhood, or you are considering leasing your own property for this purpose. Whatever your concern, it’s important to understand how California law defines and protects these group homes.

Number of residents is paramount. Two primary distinctions exist with regard to licensing such facilities, although many other complex types of licensing exist. For the purposes of this blog, the main distinction is this: All licensed facilities serving six or fewer individuals must be treated as single-family homes for zoning purposes.

In other words, if the home houses six or fewer residents, it will be treated as a single-family unit with regard to local zoning laws.

Disability laws will apply. Individuals who are undergoing treatment for drug or alcohol addiction are defined as “disabled”, per the Fair Housing Act. These laws apply to both detox centers and recovering individuals who reside in “sober living homes”.

Local governments must comply with state laws. Licensed group home facilities, housing six or fewer residents, must be treated by local governments as a single-family home in all residential zones. Local governments may not discriminate with regard to parking requirements, design standards, and so on. No special permits can be required of these homes.

Homeowners’ Associations must also comply. HOAs cannot enforce restrictive covenants to restrict group homes for the disabled, so long as those homes serve six or fewer residents. HOAs may impose all fines or other penalties normally applied to the rest of the community, so long as they do not discriminate between licensed group homes and other single-family homes.

Group homes serving more than six residents fall under different rules. When the group home serves more than six residents, different licensing laws will apply. In addition, these facilities are not considered, by law, a single-family residence. Therefore, such homes may not fall under the same protections as homes serving six or fewer residents.

Laws regarding group home facilities can become rather complicated, with regard to licensing, zoning, and so on. This blog is simply an overview of a few primary considerations. Consult with our real estate attorneys for more information on this subject, and we can explain California law as it relates to your specific concern.


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