As a 50% owner, if there is a person living ina home as a life tenant can I enter without permission or cause?

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As a 50% owner, if there is a person living ina home as a life tenant can I enter without permission or cause?

Asked on July 15, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A life tenant has a possessory interest in a life estate which means they have the exclusive use and control over it; this ends only upon their death.  Accordingly a life tenant has the right to do anything with the property that a full owner could do short of conveying any ownership interest in the property.

However with rights there are also responsibilities. A life tenant cannot commit, or allowed to be committed, "waste" of the life estate. This means that a life tenant is responsible for the payment of taxes, maintainence/repair, and generally not permitting any action/inaction would cause damage the property.

In addition to the life tenant there is also the "remainderman" (i.e. the person to whom the life estate goes upon the life tenant's death).  If the remainderman is concerned about the condition of the life estate then they can go to court and ask that a judge compel the life tenant take action (or stop activity), which will cause waste to the asset. In extreme cases, a life tenancy can be terminated early.

That all having been said, a remainderman cannot simply enter onto the premises without permission (except in the event of an emergency). Again the proper way to address any concerns as to the maintenance /operation of the life estate is to go to court. Additionally, if the remainderman prefers not to seek a judical  remedy (or their concern does not rise to the level of something that a court will act upon), they can try to negotiate a buy-out of the life estate from the life tenant.


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