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Feldsott Lee Pagano & Canfield
Orange County Homeowners Association Law Firm

What Happens When A Sober House Moves In?

One particularly thorny issue facing some HOAs is that of sober houses popping up in their midst. A sober house is a residence that serves recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, allowing them a place to stay among similar individuals in recovery. Sober houses are not treatment centers, per se, but serve as support mechanisms for people pursuing similar goals of sobriety and reintegration into normal society.


Some homeowners and HOAsĀ object to sober houses, though, as they can sometimes disrupt the character of the neighborhood. Some object to the appearance some of these houses have of being profit-driven entities that would seem to violate zoning restrictions prohibiting commercial enterprise.


There have been numerous efforts to curb the proliferation of sober houses, in California and nationwide, but most of these efforts have fallen flat so far because sober houses are not legally considered to be a commercial enterprise as long as only six people or fewer live there and the house does not provide treatment services. In addition, recovering addicts and alcoholics are considered to have a disability, and therefore are part of a class protected against housing discrimination. In short, efforts to relocate or discourage these houses in general have been and are likely to continue to be met with staunch opposition backed by legal protections.

Future fights

Efforts focused on certification requirements for sober houses, or inquiries into whether these homes operate more like hotels than homes may yet gain some traction, but with the current protections in place and given the track record so far of attempts to regulate these homes, the road ahead seems rocky at best. Homeowners or HOA representatives concerned about sober houses may speak with a lawyer to discuss their particular situation in detail and learn what their options may be.

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