Can you deny owner enterance and housing if he doesn't live there?
October 13, 2014 6:46 PM   Subscribe

My mother died in July. My Uncle, her brother, wants to sell the house they co-owned. I lived with my mother in the house and I am still living there now. He is like a stranger to me. I don't know him very well and he's a slimeball. I am not comfortable with him staying there. As the resident, what are my rights?

-My Mother and I have lived there for the past 6 years.
-The deed lists my Mother's name and my Uncle's name as tenants in common
-Mom had no will. My understanding of Michigan law is that, through probate, my mother's half would go to me. (Unless she was married at the time of her death, which she was not)
-Probate has not been started.
-He does not live there, nor does he even live in this state.
-There is no rental agreement. There is no written agreement between him and I at all.
-My Mother has paid the taxes and insurance for the past 6 years. I have paid the current taxes in full and pay for the housing insurance and utilities. My uncle has not paid a dime. He has not given me any money at all.

He showed up out of the blue last night with no notice. I asked him to leave, he refused. He said he wants to stay the month and clean out the basement. I asked him to sleep somewhere else, but if he wants to work on the basement - go for it. He's also resistant to that idea. The police say there is nothing they can do.

I am at work right now, and he is not there now, he left earlier in the morning. Everything he brought into the house with him he took when he left. I would take this as a sign that he plans to stay someplace else, but I do not have my hopes up.

If he demands entry when I return home - do I have to let him stay there? Can I refuse him entry?

I know I need a lawyer. I'm working on that. I just need some guidance for the intimidate future. I can't sleep with him there.

What am I, right now? I am the current resident.. but am I part owner, tenant, squatter, or something else?

throwaway e-mail:
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your position in this sort of depends on your mom's executor, but as you said, the police won't do anything, so it's your assertion against his until someone's lawyer changes the legal picture. If he comes back, don't let him in and call a large friend or family member to back you up. If he threatens you, call the police.
posted by michaelh at 7:16 PM on October 13, 2014

Not a lawyer, but it seems really unlikely to me that you can deny him entry if he co-owns the house. Sorry, that sounds really tough. Can you stay elsewhere temporarily, if you feel that uncomfortable?
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:17 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's your home. You can refuse him entry. At best he's your landlord in this situation - he was never someone who lived in the house.
posted by TravellingDen at 7:19 PM on October 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Found this on random website re Michigan tenancy in common: The tenancy in common is created in two or more grantees. Each owner has the right to occupy and use the premises on equal footing with the other owners
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:21 PM on October 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am no lawyer, but I am pretty sure you are not a part owner until the title of the house indicates that. And I don't think your uncle can sell the house until it clears probate.

Just a suggestion---you might want to reset things with the Uncle to better protect your near term living arrangement. Probate will take time. The insurance and taxes will need to be paid, not to mention general upkeep. Your uncle lives out of state. It would seem to be in his interest to have you in that house taking care of it until probate clarifies ownership. You need to talk to him: "Hey Uncle Slime Ball.....we need to talk about the house. Mom didn't have a will so her interest in the house will need to pass through probate. I am getting a lawyer. Until that process is complete, can we talk about my living situation here?" Feel him out. That might solve the immediate issue.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:41 PM on October 13, 2014 [9 favorites]

It's your home. You can refuse him entry. At best he's your landlord in this situation - he was never someone who lived in the house.

Unless you're a lawyer in Michigan I'm not sure what the basis for this assertion is.

OP: You say you know you need a lawyer and you're working on it. But that's exactly what needs to happen. This sounds like a much more complicated situation than most questions of this type and any non-lawyers will probably be guessing (and not educated guessing) and any lawyers probably won't answer. And I say this as someone who is a lot more cavalier about answering these types of questions than most people around here; I wouldn't hazard a guess as to the legal issues here.

The easiest thing to do might be to find somewhere else to stay until you talk to a lawyer which you should do immediately. Of course if he owns part of the home and you don't (yet) that could present legal issues of its own which I am not qualified to guess at.

The answer is to expedite the process of at least an initial consultation with an attorney.
posted by Justinian at 7:56 PM on October 13, 2014 [8 favorites]

It's your home. You can refuse him entry. At best he's your landlord in this situation - he was never someone who lived in the house.

Yeah, not necessarily. In fact, it is emphatically not your home until probate clears. It is emphatically part your uncle's home through his tenancy in common. You are, PERHAPS, depending on the law in Michigan and the particular facts of your case, a tenant of your uncle at this time, such that you could keep him out and remain in residency, but nobody here knows that enough to say for sure.

Justinian is right: your best bet is to do what you can to get an initial consultation with a lawyer in your jurisdiction quickly and ask these questions.
posted by Inkoate at 8:43 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm so very sorry for your loss. My father passed away a year ago in July, and I'm only just now really coming to terms with it.

Regardless of the legality of the situation, your best bet for the long term is to be on as good terms as possible with the uncle. Whether you want to buy him out of his portion of the house, or sell him your (eventual) part and remain as a tenant, it does not behoove you to argue with him over whatever legal rights you may or may not have. If you don't want him to stay there, tell him that it makes you uncomfortable to have someone you are not familiar with staying in the house and ask him nicely if he can stay elsewhere, or see if the two of you can compromise on some other situation.

It may be very hard for you to be accommodating to such a distasteful individual, especially while you are going through the grieving process, but as you are likely going to have to engage in some sort of real estate transaction with him down the road, it doesn't make sense to antagonize him.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:04 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do a video walkthru of the entire house so you can document what's there. Include the basement. Is it just junk in the basement or will your uncle be featured on antiques roadshow?

Get a real estate apraiser ASAP to get a value of the house right now. If he is a slimeball I can imagine a few things he can do. Start proceedings to evict you. Take out a second mortgage. Start expensive improvements.
posted by Sophont at 10:43 PM on October 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yea, you need a lawyer ASAP. This varies a LOT in my state, even from city to city. A lot of places have very specific laws about a tenant in a single family home with relation to the owner showing up. Often there's almost no protection if he lived there with you, but all the normal protections apply if he didn't. However this varies so much from place to place. I've heard of some bizarre byzantine laws about this in other states or cities. The single family home with the owner showing up to try and stay there thing can get really, really weird. There's often separate law just for that situation compared to any other kind of housing law.

So yea, sorry for the non answer, but i don't think anyone on here can give you an answer.(or if they were an actual local lawyer to you with experience in this area, they wouldn't on here)
posted by emptythought at 12:07 AM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also try to see this from your uncle's point of view. Is this a family home that was left to both of them? If he asked the question would it be something like 'I own half my departed grandfather's house with my now deceased sister. My niece, her daughter currently lives in the house rent free...'

If the basement is full of stuff someone has to empty it to get it ready to be sold and that is a heck of a lot of work. Consider the cost of hiring someone else. Should he have to rent a place to live and take on this work, too? When all is said and done you will own the house with this man and it looks like you will have at the very least a year in close contact dealing with probate and prepping the house for sale. Try to adjust your thinking.
posted by readery at 6:09 AM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I came in to say something similar to what Seymour Zamboni, Justinian and readery said: It is going to take a while to get this sorted, legally (it just does and if there is any missing paperwork, or there is no written will, or any number of other things, it will take even longer). While it's getting sorted out, since you don't have a lease or a will, your status as legal resident of the house may well be tenuous at best (caveat: I don't know Michigan landlord-tenant or probate law and that assertion is based on Illinois law). Please call or go to your closest tenant's rights legal aid group right away to find out what your rights of possession to the house during probate are. Seriously, the local tenants' rights group is the place to find out the answer to your question: What am I, right now? I am the current resident.. but am I part owner, tenant, squatter, or something else?. It's also the place to find out what actions your uncle can take as part owner and what your rights are (if any) to refuse him entry.

Wen you find an attorney who can represent your rights in probate--find out why probate has not been started yet and get it started. Your rights and interests as your mother's heir and as tenant in possession of the house, as of this moment, have neither representation nor protection and that is not good.

Ask the attorney you plan to have represent you whether there can be a forced sale of your mother's interest in the house (is there a mortgage still? are there unpaid taxes? are there medical debts to her estate?). Show your attorney all your documentation as relates to your investment in the property (tax receipts, utility bills). Tell this attorney what your goal is (to buy out your uncle? to enter into a lease agreement with your uncle? to move?) Document the current condition of the house; document its contents (use a spreadsheet--list as much detail about when and by whom the contents were purchased).

While doing all of that, try to get on better footing with your uncle. You are going to have to deal with him in all of this and if he is a stranger to you, you are a stranger to him. He has no more reason to trust your motivations and ability to care for his interest in the property than you have reason to trust his. You either have to build that trust or steel yourself for a long haul of unpleasantness.

Easier said than done, I know. But that's partly why you need an attorney, now. This is an incredibly sad and stressful time for you in the best of circumstance, but these are not the best of circumstance. You need someone working on your behalf.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:38 AM on October 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

I know I need a lawyer. I'm working on that. I just need some guidance for the intimidate future. I can't sleep with him there.

What am I, right now? I am the current resident.. but am I part owner, tenant, squatter, or something else?

Sorry, but only a lawyer can answer even those questions. Expedite that.
posted by spaltavian at 8:35 AM on October 14, 2014

IANAL, but I have recently gone through a very similar experience. he cannot evict you without consent from your mother's estate and that can't happen unless and until you enter probate. The Executor, if there is one, will be able to make these decisions. NOTE: If there is no named Executor you can petition the probate court to be appointed as the Executor. Your lawyer can help you with this.

FYI Probate can take over a year to clear the courts so brace yourself for the long haul. He can petition the courts to have you removed, but he will need cause such as non-payment of taxes or damage to the property. He could also petition for rent, but since you pay all the bills he probably won't get that passed a probate judge. At worst you will have to pay into an escrow account, managed by the executor of the Estate so that the estate can pay the bills (The estate is a taxable entity, and will have to file a tax return once probate is complete) My guess is that he will want to sell his share of the house at market rate, so unless you can buy him out you will have to sell, probably while the estate is still in probate, but that will depend on the judge, executor, and local laws. Good luck.
posted by Gungho at 8:47 AM on October 14, 2014

This situation reminds me of S03E08 of the US version of Shameless. I know that's just fictional television, but it leads me to wonder:
  • Are you sure your mother didn't leave a will? Not even a hand-written "holographic" will somewhere? Did she ever make her intentions known to anyone about what she wanted to happen with the house after she died?
  • What's to keep someone from producing a will at this point? No, I am not suggesting that you forge a will. I'm more wondering what's to keep the uncle from looking through the stuff in the basement and - surprise! - finding a will that - double surprise! - leaves him the entire house?
I don't know the details of your situation, but yeah, I think you need to get probate moving on this. And yes, as Gungho mentions, if you can get named as the Executor, that would be a goodness.

IANAL, etc.
posted by doctor tough love at 10:53 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lets assume you will eventually inherit half the house and your uncle already owns the other half.
There are several possible eventual outcomes:
- You continue living there and pay rent to your Uncle for his half.
- You continue living there rent free, your uncle gets nothing until you decide to sell.
- You both agree to sell the house and split the proceeds.
- You buy out your uncles half and own the entire house.
- Your uncle buys you out and he owns the entire house.

Think about which of those outcomes you would prefer, and which are even possible, and then talk to a lawyer.
posted by Lanark at 11:02 AM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't know the law in your area, but I have done estates for three of my relatives including my mother when she passed away. I am not a lawyer, nor do I claim this is legal advice - with that in mind;

First note: if there is no will and you are the only child and there is no husband, you get all of the assets of your mothers estate - that's her interest in the house AND ALL OF THE CONTENTS! Your uncle has NO rights to any of the contents of the house. His interest in the property extends to the property and "improvements" (house and other structures) only - not the contents. They are the exclusive property of the estate as they are considered your mothers possessions.

Therefore you can prevent him from removing ANYTHING from the house - including "cleaning out the basement". Under no scenario I am aware of where children (or parents) of the deceased exist, do siblings of the deceased get any assets in an intestate estate like your mothers.

Second, you can request the probate court to appoint an administrator - as the closest relative it's likely it could be you. The courts prefer a family member, but will appoint a stranger (like a lawyer or a trusted friend) if you decline being appointed. This is often done without a lawyer but there are forms that may require a notary, and possibly a court appearance.

Finally; As the descendant, you are heir and as such guardian of the assets of the estate until the court appoints an administrator/representative. This includes the home.

PS. Make sure you discuss fees with your lawyer before hand, don't let them talk you into a percentage of the estate unless that would be cheaper than pay by the hour.
posted by Zedcaster at 10:00 PM on October 14, 2014

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