Sober living homes, also known as transitional or halfway houses, are not uniformly regulated at the federal level in the United States.
Instead, regulation largely falls under state and local jurisdictions, leading to variations in oversight and standards across different regions.
While some states have established licensing requirements and regulations for these facilities to ensure residents’ safety and well-being, others may have limited or no specific guidelines.
The lack of consistent national standards has prompted advocacy for more comprehensive regulation to address issues such as facility conditions, staff qualifications, and resident protections.
Some states have taken steps to enhance oversight, but the overall regulatory landscape for sober living homes in the USA remains decentralized, with the effectiveness of regulations varying widely between states.
States Where Sober Living Homes are Regulated in the U.S
- Utah (2014)
- New Jersey (2018)
- Arizona (2020)
While only these states have imposed mandatory licensing requirements for sober living homes, seven other states have begun voluntary certification programs for sober living homes. These states include Minnesota, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Illinois.
Important Laws for Sober Living Home State By State
There are no specific laws for sober living homes in Alabama, but generally sober living homes in Alabama allow individuals to be independent and offer structure to help those starting their recovery journey.
Alaska has no state-wide licensing or certification requirements for sober living homes. But Alaska regulates Crisis Stabilization Facilities where a person may be detained for no more than 72 hours
Sober living homes are regulated in Arizona and anyone who is operating a facility that meets the statutory definition of a sober living home must obtain a license from ADHS to operate legally in Arizona.
ADHS has the authority to ensure SLHs and BHRFs operate in compliance with the statutes and rules that govern their licenses (read more). ADHS can also investigate allegations of an unlicensed facility operating in a manner that would require licensure.
Although you do need to seek licensure if you are interested in opening an addiction treatment facility in Arkansas, sober living homes do not need special licensing to operate in the state. Like any business, sober living homes will need to obtain a business license in Arkansas.
You’ll also likely need to complete health and safety inspections to ensure that your physical plant is up to state code. Still, you will not need to maintain an annual state license specific to recovery residences to operate.
Sober living homes do not require a license and are not limited to six or fewer residents, as long as the sober living home provides a substance-free, mutually supportive living environment for adult recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.
Note that the California Department of Health Care Services also oversees some regulation of sober living homes in the state, as long as they offer some services like Job training and drug testing.
Effective January 1, 2020, a person shall not operate a facility using the term “recovery residence”, “sober living facility”, “sober home”, or a substantially similar term, and a licensed, registered, or certified health care provider or a licensed health facility shall not refer an individual in need of recovery support services to a facility unless the facility:
- Is certified by a recovery residence certifying body approved by the Office of Behavioral Health in the Department of Human Services as specified in subsection (4) of this section;
- Is chartered by Oxford House or its successor organization;
- Has been operating as a recovery residence in Colorado for thirty or more years as of May 23, 2019; or
- Is a community-based organization that provides reentry services as described in section 17-33-101 (7).
Although Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) does maintain a listing of certified sober living homes on its website, no law in Connecticut states that sober living homes must be certified to operate, and they are typically not subject to state regulation.
There are no state-wide regulations regarding sober living home certification or licensing in Delaware. But it is important to note that in 2023 a bill that would allow substance abuse recovery houses the option of being certified by the state drew a unanimous vote in a House hearing.
Under her proposed legislation, House Bill 245 would require recovery and sober living homes to obtain licenses, accreditation, and standards of
Sober Houses are not required to be licensed under state law, however, the Florida Administrative Code Provisions define the “Community Housing” component of Day or Night Treatment with Community Housing as well as the “Residential Treatment” component of Licensed Service Providers in a way that is very similar to what we refer to as Sober Houses.
In Georgia, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities oversees mental health care facilities in the state, including sober living homes.
There is no certification process or licensing body for sober living homes since they are not treatment centers. While specific sober living house rules vary from place to place, there are some general guidelines that most expect residents to follow.
“Clean and sober home” means a house that is operated under a program designed to provide a stable environment of clean and sober living conditions to sustain recovery and that is shared by unrelated adult persons who:
(I) Are recovering from substance abuse;
(2) Share household expenses; and
(3) Do not require twenty-four-hour supervision, rehabilitation, therapeutic services, or care in the home or on the premises.
Please note that Clean and Sober Housing refers to multi-person, non-related individuals sharing a structured living arrangement.
There are no regulations on where companies can open a safe and sober living facility in Idaho. Though every sober house has its own rules and regulations, the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are programs that are required in most sober houses.
Illinois is a popular state for sober living homes, which are also known as “recovery residences” in the state’s legal parlance.
In 2019, Illinois passed a law that created a voluntary registry and certification program for sober living homes in the state.
This law makes certification through the state completely optional for operators. Certified and uncertified sober living homes are included in the voluntary registry, maintained on the state’s website.
Sober-living homes are not closely regulated. When it comes to a discussion of law, it is always important to understand the concept of jurisdiction, which includes governance at federal, state, county, and city levels.
Although there is no federal law that expressly regulates sober living homes, certain federal laws that protect everyone – such as the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act – implicitly extend to a person’s right to access a sober living home.
Similarly, although state, county, and city laws may not specifically enumerate the operations requirements of sober living homes, there may be general rules that can be invoked to protect the rights of sober living home residents (such as discrimination laws, disability laws, and contract law).
There are no specific rules or regulations for sober living homes in Iowa at the moment. But Iowa’s sober living homes are expected to operate as much-needed safety nets for sober living people in early recovery from substance abuse.
Typically, a sober living home would not be classified as a “Group Home” as defined by the Unified Zoning Code because it typically is not a facility that is licensed by the State of Kansas, primarily because no professional treatment or care is being provided to the residents within the home.
However, case law has ruled that sober living homes can be considered “Group Homes” under zoning regulations under “reasonable accommodation,” as established by the Fair Housing Act.
The Fair Housing Act requires reasonable accommodations to aid individuals considered disabled in securing equal access to housing.
Therefore, the Unified Zoning Code permits “Group Homes” as permitted uses in all residential and commercial zoning classifications.
KRHN oversees the voluntary certification program for sober living homes that exist in Kentucky. To combat a growing number of fake addiction recovery houses in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear recently signed a new law that requires recovery houses to follow quality standards.
House Bill 248 signed into law by Beshear develops standards for recovery houses, making sure they are doing what they say they will do.
The state of Louisiana does not issue licenses or certifications to sober living homes. However, the state provides general regulations guiding the operations of sober living homes through the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH).
For example, The Lafayette Development Code prohibits more than four people from living in a single household if they are unrelated by blood, marriage, civil union, adoption et al.
A certified recovery residence must have a written discharge and transfer policy that is approved by a credentialing entity that is recognized by the department.
Notwithstanding any landlord and tenant rights and obligations under Title 14, chapter 709, a certified recovery residence with a discharge and transfer policy approved under this section may immediately discharge or transfer a resident by that policy if the discharge or transfer is necessary for the resident’s welfare.
The resident’s needs cannot be met at the recovery residence or the health and safety of other residents or recovery residence employees are at risk or would be at risk if the resident continues to live at the recovery residence.
A person who refuses to leave a recovery residence after a discharge or transfer that is consistent with the requirements of this section may be ordered to leave the premises by the recovery residence owner or operator or by a law enforcement officer.
Under House Bill 1411, titled “Health – Recovery Residences – Certification” which was enacted under Article II 17 (c) of the Maryland Constitution on May 28, 2016, and became effective on October 1, 2016, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) was required to approve a credentialing entity to develop and administer a certification process for recovery residences.
Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) was approved by the Department to serve as the designated credentialing entity.
Residents cannot bring alcohol or drugs into the recovery residence. Regular drug testing is mandatory. Visitors cannot stay over. Attending peer support meetings is compulsory, especially for new residents.
It is unlawful to discriminate against congregate living for those who are disabled, in sober living homes. Recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are within the scope of the term “disabled”. Therefore, sober homes for the disabled may not be discriminated against through zoning or otherwise.
Although there are no specific laws for sober living homes in Michigan, but there are rules to ensure minimum quality standards for substance abuse services in Michigan.
These include definitions, general provisions, and rules related to licensure, recipient rights, methadone, and treatment services. These rules were promulgated under Section 6234 of PA 368 of 1978.
All sober homes must comply with applicable state laws and regulations and local ordinances related to maximum occupancy, fire safety, and sanitation. In addition, all sober homes must:
(1) maintain a supply of an opiate antagonist in the home and post information on proper use;
(2) have written policies regarding access to all prescribed medications;
(3) have written policies regarding evictions;
(4) return all property and medications to a person discharged from the home and retain the items for a minimum of 60 days if the person did not collect them upon discharge.
The owner must make an effort to contact persons listed as emergency contacts for the discharged person so that the items are returned; Minn. Stat. § 254B.181
Every licensed facility located inside the boundaries of a municipality shall comply with all local municipal codes and ordinances applicable thereto. In addition, each licensed facility shall comply with all applicable state and federal laws.
For example, no facility may be licensed until it shows conformance to the safety regulations providing minimum standards for the prevention and detection of fire as well as for the protection of life and property against fire.
Missouri does not require sober living home operators to register or certify their homes with the state. There are no yearly required fees, complex application packets, annual inspections or other hoops to jump through in Missouri.
You have the option to get your home certified – and you probably should – but you are not obligated to do so and there are no legal consequences should you discontinue your certification status.
All individuals shall participate in the development of an individual treatment plan and regular plan reviews and updates as specified in 9 CSR 10-7.030 Service Delivery Process and Documentation, and following program-specific requirements included in these regulations.
The Montana Senate approved a bill seeking to regulate sober-living homes in 2023, bringing the measure one step closer to becoming law.
If the bill passes the full Legislature, it will have a significant impact on the city of Billings, which accounts for more than half of all recovery residences in the state. The legislation has left many involved with sober-living homes in the area divided.
Licensure by DPHHS is required for the operation of residential treatment facilities. Licensure duration is 1-3 years, depending on type, after which a renewal application is required.
Sober living homes are not required to seek certification by the government in Nebraska, as there is no such program in the state. Addiction treatment centers, however, are required to be licensed in Nebraska.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services in Nebraska, sober living homes are exempt from rules around “Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment Centers” because they don’t “provide minimum supervision of client’s personal care, activities of daily living or health maintenance of clients.”
Activities of daily living, also called “ADLs,” are typical of the types of services offered in nursing homes: help with eating, bathing, etc.
Sober living homes in Nebraska are nationally protected by ADA and FHA laws, which guarantee that people with disabilities (like SUD) have equal access to basic rights, such as housing.
“Facility for the treatment of alcohol or other substance use disorders” means any public or private establishment that provides residential treatment, including mental and physical restoration, of persons with alcohol or other substance use disorders. It does not include a medical facility or services offered by volunteers or voluntary organizations.
Unfunded Mandate The New Hampshire Constitution prohibits the State from adopting laws that require municipalities to expend money without also providing the funding.
The proposed law provides a municipal licensing scheme, which begs the question from the municipality side of things, “Who’s going to pay for it?”
In February of 2018, NJ Department of Community Affairs’ sober living regulation became what is now known as a “Class F” rooming and boarding license called a CSLR or “Cooperative Sober Living Residence”.
NJ Department of Community Affairs’ sober living regulation now allows sober living homes to stop flying under the radar and permits operators to safely conduct business while providing a valuable service.
The regulations allow operators to provide levels of care outlined in the New Jersey Alliance of Recovery Residence (NJARR) from levels 1 through 3.
This means that the minimum requirements are basic safety but quality providers can push the envelope and provide services that will be life-saving.
According to The Mental Health & Addiction Certification Board of Oregon’s National Overview of Recovery Housing Accreditation Legislation and Licensing, there is “no current private or state accreditation and none under development” for sober living homes in New Mexico.
Group homes are not allowed in residential zones, whereas community residential facilities, similar to group homes but different — are allowed.”
Sober living homes are considered community residential facilities in the United States and New Mexico in particular. They are protected by ADA and FHA standards, which say that people with disabilities like SUD may not be discriminated against when it comes to housing.
“Recovery housing” means housing for individuals recovering from substance use disorder or problem gambling that provides a substance-free living environment and offers peer support, assistance with obtaining substance use disorder support services, and other recovery wellness supports.
The program governing authority must approve written policies, procedures, and methods governing the provision of services to occupants in compliance with Office regulations including a description of each service provided.
Such policies, procedures, and methods shall reflect nationally and locally recognized best practices for oversight of a certified recovery residence.
These policies, procedures, and methods must address, at a minimum: acceptance into the residence and the completion or termination of residence, including referral.
Residents are required to maintain sobriety and abstain from alcohol and drug use while residing in the home. Active participation in 12-step meetings, counseling sessions, or other recovery-related activities may be expected.
There are no specific regulations for sober living homes in North Dakota, but Sober living homes in North Dakota are nationally protected by ADA and FHA laws, which guarantee that people with disabilities (like SUD) have equal access to basic rights, such as housing.
According to Section 340.034 of the Ohio Revised Code, updated in 2017, no sober living home will be required to obtain licensure or certification to operate in the state of Ohio.
Recovery residences/sober living programs are certified by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) state affiliate, Oklahoma Alliance for Recovery Residences (OKARR). ODMHSAS funds, both directly and through collaborative grant efforts, three recovery housing programs.
The Oregon Health Authority is responsible for licensing and regulating sober living homes in Oregon. They require all homes to be clean and well-maintained, provide basic amenities, and in some cases, include access to onsite health care providers.
The licensee of a drug and alcohol recovery house must obtain the services of an independent certified public accountant for a financial audit of the drug and alcohol recovery house’s operations every 2 years.
Recordkeeping of personnel files must include application/resume for employment, a Pennsylvania State Police criminal history record check, any disciplinary actions, and documentation of training.
Recordkeeping of resident files must include a consent to residency form, referrals (if applicable), and beginning of residency documentation (criteria for residency, signed orientation paperwork, and basic personal, medical, and emergency contact information).
In Rhode Island you can choose to be certified with RICARES, and/or choose to maintain a OSCRH membership. You may also choose to not affiliate with either of these organizations. However, only sober living homes that elect to get certified with RICARES are eligible for state referrals and funding.
While certification for sober living homes in Rhode Island is voluntary, only homes that have gone through the state’s certification process, care of RICARES, are eligible to receive state referrals and state funding.
‘Recovery housing’ means recovery residences, recovery homes, sober loving homes, work-rehab homes, three-quarter houses, and other similar dwellings that provide individuals recovering from alcohol and substance use disorders with a living environment free from alcohol and illicit substance use and centered on peer support and connection to services that promote sustained recovery, including continued sobriety, improved individual health, residential stability, and positive community involvement.
Sober living homes in South Dakota allow individuals to be independent and offer structure to help those starting their recovery journey.
Transitioning from drug rehab to your life is not always easy, and sober living homes provide the needed support structure. To help, DRS has a list of sober living homes in South Dakota to help you find housing that is right for you.
Tennessee’s state code prohibits residential or community-based treatment facilities from providing drug and alcohol treatment services without a license.
Violating the state licensing code is a Class B Misdemeanor, which includes providing drug and alcohol services without a license.
The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on their disability or mental health condition, and this includes those recovering from addiction.
However, it does not protect people currently abusing substances. Sober living homes have strict regulations around drug testing and ingesting intoxicating substances, including alcohol and tobacco, which are legal for adult use in the U.S.
Utah has some of the strictest sober living home regulations in the United States. Both addiction treatment centers and sober living homes – also known as recovery residences – must obtain a license to operate in Utah.
All sober living homes, with a few exceptions, must seek licensure with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services Licensing and Background Checks division.
Utah categorizes these licenses as “human services type licenses” along with such entities as foster care programs, adult day care programs, and therapeutic schools.
It is authorized to provide certification based on NARR standards to sober homes in Vermont. People with disabilities must be provided services in the most integrated setting.
See generally, Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999). Vermont Legal Aid does not support H. 211 as drafted because it would permit immediate eviction, which is destabilizing to this vulnerable group of tenants.
Sober living homes fall under the category of “recovery residences” in Virginia. The state oversees a voluntary certification program and offers recovery residences the opportunity to apply to join a list of certified residences in the state if they meet certain qualifications.
Per the Virginia State Code, all recovery residences claiming to be certified must either have achieved accreditation from Oxford House, Inc. or NARR (usually by way of VARR). However, there is nothing in Virginia state code that specifically states you MUST be certified by any accrediting body.
The law simply states that you may not represent yourself as accredited if you are not specifically accredited by these two entities.
Substitute House Bill 1528, passed by the State Legislature in 2019 created RCW 71.24.660. Starting January 1, 2023, service providers will need to refer qualified individuals to recovery housing on the HCA Recovery Home Registry.
If you are a provider that has connections with a recovery home that is not included in the registry, please contact the Washington Alliance of Quality Recovery Residences with contact information, so they can reach out and potentially start the process of becoming included on the registry.
Sober living homes that receive money and/or referrals from the state must be certified. If you want to operate a sober living home that does not accept public funding and does not rely on referrals from state workers of any kind, then you are not required to seek certification. In this way, certification in West Virginia is considered voluntary.
To become an approved Recovery Residence in Wisconsin, you must complete the following process.
Agree to the following expectations:
- Operate with integrity, uphold residents’ rights, create a culture of empowerment where residents engage in governance and leadership, and develop abilities to apply the social model form of recovery that focuses on learning from the experiences of peers who are also in recovery.
- Provide a home-like, safe, and healthy environment.
- Facilitate active recovery and recovery community engagement, model positive social behaviors and relationship enhancement skills, and cultivate residents’ senses of belonging and responsibility toward the community.
- Maintain an environment in the residence free from alcohol and illicit drugs.
- Have courtesy rules for residents and be responsive to the concerns of neighbors to the residence.
- Display in the residence the code of ethics, grievance procedure, and grievance contact information.
- As of April 1, 2022, the recovery residence will not exclude any resident solely on the basis that the resident is participating in medication-assisted treatment.
- Complete the Recovery Residence Registry Application, F-02706 (Word).
- Submit your completed F-02706 application to:
DHS/Division of Quality Assurance
Behavioral Health Certification Section
PO Box 2969
Madison, WI 53701-2969
Wyoming regulates Group Residential Services, which are non-medical, fully supervised room, board, and therapeutic structures provided in a licensed facility directly operated by a professional staff of a state-certified community mental health center that also provides outpatient treatment for residents.
These are limited to those that receive state funds or request to be licensed/certified. Wyoming regulates all community substance abuse treatment services, including those identified below under the first 4 bullets, that receive state funds or that elect to be certified.
Separate regulations apply specifically to programs and personnel providing substance abuse services, which are purchased in whole or in part by the State of Wyoming.