Do I have any rights in my apartment even though there is nothing in writing and I am not on the lease?

I live in an apartment with my girlfriend and her 2 year old daughter. I pay for half of the living expenses (in cash) but there is no written agreement or anything really to prove I live there. I have a key, the landlord knows of me, and all my possessions and belongings are in the apartment. My girlfriend suffers from BPD and constantly threatens to throw all my stuff out and kick me out of the apartment. Can she legally kick me out without any prior notice?

Asked on October 7, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Virginia

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You must be given notice, whether or not you are on the lease in order to be legally evicted.  The question here however is, who is the suitable party to file an "unlawful detainer action" (i.e. eviction lawsuit)? 

To evict a person from their established home, the one who is entitled to possession of the premises must sue in court. Since you were not on the lease, then you may be considered to be a "licensee" (i.e. someone who was invited to enter and remain on the premises).  Once your invitation is been revoked, you will need to be formally evicted.  In such a case, the lawful occupant of the premises can file; here your roommate (girlfriend).  

However, you could be considered to be a "tenant"(even without a lease).  If, for example, the landlord has treated you as a tenant by accepting rent directly from you, by putting (or allowing you to put) your name on the mailbox/doorbell, if the landlord gave you a key, or if you and your roomate rented the place together and it was clear that both of you were on equal footing, etc.  Under such circumstances, you may have attained the status of a tenant. In that case, the landlord would have to file for the eviction because only landlords can evict tenants (i.e. the rightful occupant of the premises).

Note: Regardless of who evicts you, all legal requirements must be met. Using illegal methods to force someone to move is a criminal violation.  Therefore self-help measures such as removing your personal belongings or changing the locks, cannot be used. 

At this point, you should consult with a landlord-tenant attorney or tenant's rights organization to find out just what are your legal  rights and/or remedies.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.