Our firm receives many inquiries regarding property disputes among family members. Often, several relatives may inherit property from a deceased relative, and cannot agree on how the property is to be maintained, whether the property should be sold, and who should live at the property.
Prior blog posts have discussed the possibility of a partition action when the owners cannot agree on the disposition of the property. An additional question often raised, in several different contexts, is whether a family member, living at the premises, can be legally evicted. The answer to this question involves delving into the situation in further detail, and is far from simple.
The first question to be asked is whether the person sought to be evicted is an owner of the property, whether through inheritance or other type of transfer. If that family member is a legal owner of the property, the general answer is that person cannot be legally evicted. In general, any owner of a property, even a partial owner, has a right to reside at the premises. Let’s assume two brothers inherit a house from their parents. Both brothers now own 50% of the house, and both have a legal right to reside at the house without paying rent to the other. However, they are both legally obligated to equally share the costs of the upkeep of the house, such as routine maintenance and real estate taxes. Neither would have the legal right to bring an eviction action against the other. The situation could be resolved by one of the brothers buying the other’s interest, or selling the property to a third party, and splitting the net proceeds.