Is it legal to rent a commercial space and use it as a residence?

What are the legal considerations if I wanted to rent a commercial space and use it as my place of residence?

Asked on October 25, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If it is not zoned for residential use and/or does not have a certificate of occupancy, you can't do this--period. You are not allowed to reside in any place which is not a legal residence.

It may be possible to get it rezoned, get a waiver of zoning, get a CO, etc., but it may well not be worth the effort, time, and cost. You'd also have to deal with issues of building and health codes--e.g. a place not designed or designated as a residence may not meet the code requirements for a place of residence, and so living in there would, again, be illegal.

If you rent or lease the premises under false pretenses--i.e. you tell the landlord it will be commercial, but you're really going to live there--you will either be in breach of the lease and/or will have committed fraud in forming the lease, and in either event could be evicted and also sued.

It will be impossible to get the proper kind of insurance to protect yourself--you can't get residential renter's insurance for a commercial space. If you lie to get it, you are committing insurance fraud.

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