Sober Living Options in California

A complete guide on how to find a sober living home within the state of California.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Sober homes can be the bridge you need between treatment and daily life. But how do you find the right one to accommodate your needs? We review sober living standards in California here. Then, we invite your questions at the end.



In order to find the right sober living home, it’s important that you know what it is first. This way, you can know what to expect and what to avoid. In the state of California, a sober living home is a supervised place to live. Sober homes are communities of people who decide to live together in a drug-free environment. People rent these homes the way they would rent an apartment under a landlord-tenant arrangement.

It should be noted that this landlord will NOT offer any kind of drug addiction treatment. Sober living is NOT drug treatment. Rather, it’s a place where people go after treatment in order to avoid relapse and continue pursuing a sober and healthy life. [1] Within the Golden state, you’ll find three basic types of housing:

Sober Living in California

Sober living is when you live in an alcohol and drug free environment. These apartments, houses, and rooms offer peer support for recovery outside the context of treatment. In order to qualify, you simply must pay rent, purchase your own necessities, and be a supportive member of the community.

You don’t have to go to rehab to join a sober living community. The essential characteristics of this type of housing include:

  1. No formal treatment services.
  2. Strong encouraged attendance at self-help groups.
  3. Personal responsibility for financing rent.
  4. Long-term stay as long as you comply with house rules.

Sober living has its origins in the state of California. However, it is difficult to know how many sober living homes there are in California because they do not need to report to state licensing agencies. Still, many are affiliated with coalitions or associations that monitor health, safety, quality and adherence to a peer-oriented model of recovery such as The California Association of Addiction Recovery Resources (CAARR) and The Sober Living Network.

Halfway and ¾ Way Houses

Halfway and ¾ way houses are transitional accommodations. You live in a shared living space, often managed and supervised by others. In order to qualify for this kind of an arrangement, residents must either have completed or be actively involved in a treatment program.

What’s it like? When people enter these houses, they’re living in a drug-free environment.
However, there is more or less supervision in this type of sober housing than other options on our list. For example, if you decide to sleep elsewhere, you can expect to have to take a drug test the following day.

Halfway houses can be funded by the government. Plus, there are many residents who are court-ordered to remain a resident for a certain period of time. People who stay in these homes usually do so for about 12 months.

A ¾ way house is a transitional living situation that is good for people who need a little more help before being 100% on their own. Most people who seek this option need more time before moving out on their own.

House Rules

According the California State Library, the house rules set up in a sober living house must be respectful to the residents, the neighbors, and the community. [2] These rules will vary from house to house. In order to truly know the rules of your house, you’ll want to ask either the landlord or check out the website of the house itself.

Common rules for sober living homes within California are as follows:

  1. No alcohol or drug possession or use allowed on and off the premises. In order to make sure this rule is followed, you may be asked to take frequent drug tests (often at random) and, if you refuse to take one, you’ll be discharged.
  2. No guests or visitors allowed on the premises without the consent of a staff member. Overnight guests are never allowed.
  3. In order to keep the sober living home sanitary, each resident must complete a daily chore. In order to make sure the home remains functional, you’ll have a curfew.
  4. All residents must attend one weekly meeting and daily self-help meetings.
  5. You’ll be encouraged to find and maintain a job. If you do not have one, you’ll be encouraged to seek out employment for certain period of time.
  6. Residents are not allowed to borrow money from others. If you’re caught stealing, you’ll immediately be discharged.
  7. No pets allowed, though some houses will allow self-help pets.
  8. Rent and other fees must always be paid on time.
  9. Though you won’t be monitored, it’s highly encouraged you keep your medical and mental health appointments and take your medication as prescribed.
  10. Cigarette smoking is only allowed in specific smoking designated areas.
  11. Many houses will allow for a 48-hour overnight pass on a monthly basis. In order to qualify for this, you must need to request permission in advance. Upon your return, you should expect to be asked for a drug test.
  12. No fighting nor gambling allowed.

Though these rules seem strict, the purpose of them is to get your body and brain in a new rhythm. By doing a lot of activities, you’ll better be able to keep your mind off cravings. Plus, you’ll be practicing healthier alternatives. You’ll begin to understand what life can be like without drugs…and be encouraged to continue your new life.

What Sober Living is Really Like

Sober living is like living in a dorm with people in addiction recovery. Why do most people agree to enter this type of housing? When you leave drug addiction treatment, it can be difficult to jump back into life. Plus, you may still experience cravings for your drug-of-choice. Even though you’ve gotten rid of the chemical within your body, your brain still has ways of fantasizing about the high [3].

The purpose of entering a sober living home is to have support in recovery. Some people benefit from planting new roots. Others benefit from being away from home. Either way, a drug-free environment can help you better understand how to stay sober…. while receiving help from a support system of people in the same boat.

According to the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 40% of sober living home participants remain sober during their 6 month period in the sober home. [4]

But living in a sober living home isn’t always easy. Being surrounded by a new cast of people under one roof with very strict rules can be intimidating. Plus, you’ll need to agree to a certain set of rules. However, everything about a sober living home is set up to help you maintain your sobriety.

Day–to-Day Life

You can expect to wake up around the same time as everyone else. In the morning, you’ll have a number of chores to do which include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Cleaning your room or the shared bathroom.
  • Doing laundry.
  • Helping with breakfast.
  • Making your bed.

By the time you complete your morning chores, you’ll then go to work if you have a job. If you don’t, then you’ll actively search for a job. It’s during these work hours when many residents will complete counseling sessions, go to doctor’s appointments, and perform community service.

By the time the evening rolls around and everyone has completed their responsibilities, you can expect a support group session, social activity, and dinner. These vary depending upon where you live. In order to get a clearer sense of these activities, you’ll want to talk to your landlord.

By the time night comes, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy some entertainment. Whether you’d like to read a good book or enjoy the latest Netflix has to offer, this is the time for you to relax. Everyone will then go to bed around the same time and, though it varies, most sober living homes will have lights out around midnight.

Finding a Sober Home

Now that you’ve learned about most of the benefits of a sober living home, you might be wondering where to find one. There are a number of options at your disposal:

1. Request a Referral from a Treatment Facility

Reputable treatment facilities will have connections to sober houses and may even offer you options for living in a sober house as an aftercare service. In order to receive this information, you’ll want to discuss the matter over with your case manager BEFORE leaving the treatment facility. This is for the sake of making sure there is room in the sober home and that you will have access to all they have to offer RIGHT AFTER YOUR TREATMENT.

2. Request a Referral from a Mental Health Professional or Center

As part of your drug addiction treatment, you may be seeking out a mental health professional. If so, this is a great time to ask them of connections they have to a sober living facility.

3. Visit the National Alliance for Recovery Residences

This non-profit organization aims to support people who are in the recovery process by giving them access to sober homes. You can check out their recommendations through their California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals page or their Sober Living Network page. Both links offer contact information.

4. Check Out a List of Certified Recovery Residences


Within the state of California, there are specific laws when it comes to regulating and operating sober living homes. By gaining knowledge of these laws, you’ll have the ability to better determine which sober living home is most reputable in accordance with the state.

Fair Employment Housing Act (1959)

Summary: Forbids discriminations within housing based upon disability. In turn, houses must provide reasonable accommodations or modifications for those with disability on the premises.

Government Code 65008 (a), (b), and (d)(2)

Summary: Forbids discrimination in terms of zoning laws against those of disability. Whether it be single-family or multi-family residences, people with disability are protected.

City of Santa Barbara v. Adamson, 27 Cal. 3d 123, 134 (1980)

Summary: Before this trial, there were laws set into place which placed a limit on the number of unrelated people who were allowed to live within a single house-keeping unit. Before the law, only those of “family” based (blood, marriage, and legal adoption) could. This case determined these ideas violated the rights to privacy under the state constitution.

86 Opinions of the Califonria Attorney General 30 (2003)

Summary: The California Attorney General developed the opinion that communities had a right to prohibit lodging houses in residential areas. Since this opinion was released, numerous cities have used it to limit the development of sober living homes.


Under California law, you do not need a state license in order to run a sober living home [5]. This is due to the Fair Housing Act making it so that rental homes cannot discriminate against those with a disability.

Still, after the 2003 California Attorney General’s opinion, many cities are placing rules of their own against sober living homes. When you’re seeking out a sober living home in a specific location, you’ll want to look up the specific rules and regulations of both your city and county.

Federal Oversight and Regulations

In accordance with the federal government, a sober living house does not provide treatment. Rather, they provide an aftercare service and a place where people can support one another in sobriety. With that, they are not a licensed facility under the state. Depending on their size, they may be subjected to building and fire safety codes.

State Oversight and Regulations

As mentioned, California does not require a license to run a sober living home. The laws surrounding sober living state that places which offer the accommodations cannot discriminate against people of disability. Again, you may find that there are areas in which you will not find sober living homes due to the 2003 California Attorney General’s opinion. In order to get a clear sense of where you can find a sober living home, you’ll want to look up specific rules and regulations for specific cities and counties.

Local Oversight and Regulations

Throughout California, there are a variety of instances where local government are seeking to better regulate sober living homes. For example, in January 2013, the Los Angeles City Council sent a proposition from the Community Care Facilities Ordinance to the committee for further review [6]. If this had gone through, any home within a single-family zone would be viewed as a boarding house. This is prohibited within all residential zones under existing legislations. In another example, a number of sober living homes were removed from the city of Newport Beach. [7]

How to Report a Sober House

If you have suspicion that you sober house is committing a crime, fraud, has improper management, you can call a toll free hotline in the State. This hotline is that of California’s State Attorney’s Office. It’s open to both residents of a sober home and doctors/counselors to report questionable business practices.


You may also check out the contact information on the Attorney General’s website to reach out for a more specific concern:

Your Questions

By entering a sober living home, you’ll find yourself active in recovery process. In turn, this will help you focus on important areas of your life and your health. Furthermore, you’ll find that a sober living home is a more welcoming transition into everyday life compared to simply leaving recovery. Again, it’s the bridge that connects treatment and the real world. But to get into a sober living home is a big decision.

With that, you may still have questions concerning sober housing in California. Please post your questions in the comments section below. We try to personally and promptly respond to all legitimate questions.

Reference Sources [1] SAMHSA: Recovery Homes Help People in Early Recovery
[2] California State Library: Sober Living Homes in California: Options for State and Local Regulation
[3] National Institute on Drug Abuse: Health Consequences of Drug Misuse
[4] US National Library of Medicine: A Clean and Sober Place to Live
[5] Select California Laws Relating to Residential Recovery Facilities and Group Homes
[6] City of Los Angeles RE: Community Care Facilities Ordinance
[7] The Orange County Register: Costa Mesa doubles down on sober-living home restrictions
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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