Q: I had to move out of my apartment six months ago and I have been living in a motel since then. I have been paying a monthly rent to the motel owner. About three weeks ago, the owner asked me to move to a different room, which I did. Then, last week the owner came to my new room and told me I had to be out of the room within 24 hours or he would call the police to have me arrested. Can he do that?
A: The answer is no, even though you are not living in a traditional apartment building.
Under California law, you have been living in this motel for more than 30 days with the permission of the owner, which makes you a month-to-month tenant, entitled to the rights all other tenants enjoy in California. These rights include the duty of your landlord to give you a 30-day written notice of termination before taking action to remove you, and the right to have your eviction determined in an unlawful detainer superior court action if you remain after 30 days.
Even then, you can only be removed after the superior court enters a judgment against you. It is true that motel owners can remove short-term "transient" guests by calling the police, but once you establish tenant status, that procedure can no longer be used. If the police do come, you should advise them that you are a lawful tenant, not a transient guest, and you should show them receipts documenting your long-term stay. The fact that your room was changed does not change your tenant status. Motel owners cannot defeat tenancy status simply by moving a resident to a different room every 30 days, which is a common tactic.
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