California RCFE license items you should know about

6 Things to Know About RCFE Licensure

Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs) serve those who require some level of physical assistance and supervision but do not need around-the-clock medical care.

RCFEs come in several sizes from the large facilities that may have 200 residents to a small home with 6 or less residents. These smaller facilities have a better ability to provide more specialized care because of client to staff ratios of 1 to 3, in most cases.


RCFE licensure parameters x

If you are thinking about opening a new RCFE, you need to know a thing or two about RCFE licensure. 

An RCFE license is required to operate such a facility. All current and prospective RCFE owners and administrators should be familiar with their state’s licensing processes.  

Keep in mind that states individually regulate RCFE requirements. If you are thinking about opening your own RCFE, it’s important to stay current with laws specific to your region. For people in California, there’s a lot that goes into opening a new RCFE facility. If you need help, contact us about  RCFE licensing.

1. Regulation

RCFEs in California are regulated by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) enforces their respective laws and regulations via RCFE licensing and periodic inspections.

Facilities are governed by the California Code of Regulations Title 22, Division 6, Chapter 8 and the California Health and Safety Codes. These regulations provide guidance on topics such as maintenance and operations, resident care standards, resident rights and staff training requirements, to name a few. 

See here for the full California code of regulations.

2. Assisted Living Administrator Certification

All RCFEs have an assisted living administrator. Whether you plan on hiring one or administrating your own facility, this role requires a certificate. 

Assisted living administrators are directly responsible for the care and well-being of RCFE residents. They are also responsible for overseeing operations and supervising other staff members. It goes without saying that having a qualified administrator is vital to a successful RCFE

California law mandates all RCFE administrators to be certified. To become an RCFE administrator, CDSS requires an individual to complete the 80 hour Initial Administrator Certification Course.

This program requires applicants to pass an 80-hour certification course, followed by a state exam with a score of 70% or better. This program covers most aspects of RCFE training, such as regulations, laws, employee requirements, and acceptable vs. unacceptable facility conditions.

assisted living administrator requirements and why they're important

It is important to note that the exam must be completed within 60 days of course completion, and any supplementing paperwork and fees must be submitted within 30 days of passing the exam. 

All RCFE administrator certificate applications must be sent to the California DSS office, and newly issued certificates will be valid for a period of two years.

Administrator Requirements

Aside from certification, administrators must also meet some basic requirements. The CDSS requires the following of administrators: 

  • Administrators must hold a high school diploma or GED to care for 1-15 residents.
  • Administrators must have a minimum of 15 college units and one year of experience to care for 16-49 residents. 
  • Must have two years of college and three years’ experience for a facility with 50 or more residents. 
  • Must pass a criminal background check. 

This process certifies that administrators have the knowledge to oversee an RCFE competently and efficiently. A certified administrator will also provide peace of mind for the respective owner.

3. Facility Licensure

In California, CDSS has a three-part licensure requirement for all facilities.  

To open a new RCFE, you are first required to complete a three-hour orientation. This is a facility-specific component detailing the ins and outs of facility operation. An application for licensure should be submitted subsequently, after you have proven ownership of the facility grounds.


Facility licensure and RCFE application explained

The second part is a one-on-one interview conducted by a state analyst. This part is carried out once the initial application is submitted for review. 

Part three is an on-site survey consisting of category-specific training  This is designed to promote successful facility operation and is conducted prior to licensure finalization. 

The license application is tedious and can be denied if filled out incorrectly. We can help prepare your entire RCFE application and customize  it to your specific needs.

4. RCFE Staff Requirements

Although RCFE caregivers don’t need to be medically competent to the degree of a registered nurse, California does mandate minimal requirements for RCFE staff. California law states that each community must have “sufficient staff at all times and competent to provide the services necessary to meet residential needs.” 

Aside from this broad statement, RCFE staff must meet the following criteria:

  • Staff providing direct care to residents and employees who supervise employees must be at least 18 years of age. 
  • Administrators must be at least 21 years of age.
  • A CPR-certified staff member is required to be on the premises 24/7. 
  • First-aid certifications are required for staffers giving care to residents.  
  • Criminal background checks are required for all facility personnel, along with a health screening and negative tuberculosis test. 
  • Additional employees may be required to perform day-to-day duties such as paperwork, cooking, cleaning, activities, etc.

Since RCFEs do not administer medical care, nurses and doctors are not required to be on the premises. If RCFE staff are caring for residents with dementia, they must have a certain amount of  training hours on dementia to  provide care. 

Also, for similar reasons, RCFEs do not need to abide by regulated staff-to-client ratios. This means that owners need to have a sufficient amount of staff based on residents’ needs.

5. Online Licensure Renewal in California

Per California law, RCFE administrators are required to complete 40 hours of continuing education units every two years, while facility licenses must be renewed annually. This is required to keep facilities and their staff current with new or changing RCFE procedures.


Understand why RCFE licensing is important in California

The Importance of Licensure

Aside from it being required by law, RCFE licenses ensure facilities and staff provide the best care for their residents. Licensure ensures that facilities have the proper space and equipment to operate and that their employees can carry out their duties. These may include but are not limited to: 

  • Assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and mobility.
  • Medication and Health-related services
  • Meals
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Housekeeping services
  • Dementia care

The licensing and training requirements of RCFEs, administrators, and their staff certify that all personnel are capable and competent in their duties. A study by the California Assisted Living Association (CALA) concluded that well-trained RCFE staff were vital to the mental, physical, and emotional health of their residents.

6. The RCFE licensure process

Obtaining a California RCFE license is not a simple process by any means, but the care these facilities provide fills a growing need. 


The National Institute of Health projects America’s elderly population to double over the next three decades and this is especially true in California. Nearly 20% of the state’s entire population is projected to be 65+ by 2030. 


Large capacity RCFE’s become increasingly more desirable among aging adults looking to downsize. These facilities offer a variety of activity choices, dining options and assistance with personal care. 


Families have more options to choose from and care is based on a resident assessment of the specific care the resident needs assistance with. Small facilities, such as a 6-bed, often charge a flat rate that includes room and care.


Both large and small communities have the same goal: to provide care that best suits the needs of the resident. 

Assisted Living Education is the premier provider of RCFE certification, RCFE classes, licensing, products and services for assisted living. Our teachers are experienced  industry professionals that are engaging, entertaining and highly informative. We offer RCFE consulting services and share real RCFE experience that will give you an edge in this growing and highly competitive industry. Contact us today.

About Assisted Living Education
Assisted Living Education has been operating in and improving the growing senior care industry for over 15 years. Founded by certified RCFE administrators, Jane Van Dyke-Perez and Bill Perez, we have licensed more than 1,100 assisted living facilities and built close relationships with the California Department of Social Services, assisted living managers, owners and industry professionals. As senior living care educators ourselves, we strive to contribute our knowledge and skills to continually improve senior care and the satisfaction of those working in the industry.