How can I get paid for work done on roommate’s house?

We moved into this house 6 months ago. This is the third house my roommate and I have had in the past 25 years. I am not on the title or loan. Like before, I immediately began doing renovations. Extensively. A lot of the costs I have paid for myself I have a part-time job with my church and I do nearly all the work myself but hire out electrical, plumbing, etc. I also generally keep house, look after the pets, run errands and generally make life easier for my roommate. This has always been our mutual agreement. Last week she was admitted to the hospital and when she gets out her sister has decided she will be living with her 86yo dad which apparently my roommate has agreed with. They have never understood our living arrangement or lifestyle. Meanwhile, the bills still need to be paid, two rooms are midway done, the movers are bringing the contents of our two storage units today, the $2600 monthly mortgage payment is now due, and everything is in her name. I realize that I am flat out of a home now. I am totally just stunned beyond belief that this is how it ends after 25 years. However, I think that I should be paid for all my hard work I have put into this house. How can I go about getting at least the money that I have put out for materials, if not for my labor?

Asked on May 23, 2016 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You are not entitled to any compensation for the work or money you put into the home unless there was an agreement with your roommate--preferably a written one, since proving the existence and terms of an oral agreement, as well as enforcing it, can be difficult--that you would be paid or reimbursed for these things. Without such an agreement, you gratuitously (or voluntarily or freely) chose to improve a home in which you were living (and thereby benefiting from any improvements), and there is no compensation for gratuitous expenditures of effort or money.

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