Can my ex-girlfriend sue for the return of the rent that I charged her?

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Can my ex-girlfriend sue for the return of the rent that I charged her?

I dated my girlfriend for 3 years and in that time I purchased a home. While living there I charged her rent and half of the utilities. We broke up about 3 months ago. She moved out. She is now suing me for the rent and bill money she paid while living with me. There was never any written or verbal agreement that I would pay her anything back if we broke up. Does she have a case at all?

Asked on August 8, 2011 Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

She would not seem to have a case:

1) As a general matter, agreements made in respect of affection, intimate relations, or romance are not enforceable, so any alleged agreement based on your relationship status (including any alleged agreement that you'd repay her if you broke up) is probably not enforceable.

2) Without some enforceable agreement to repay her the rent, utilities, etc., there likely is no ground for her to seek their recovery. The amounts she paid could be seen validly as either her rent for staying there--and since she did live with you for the time she paid this "rent," she got what she paid for and has no ground for its return--or as a "gift"--contributing to help a romantic partner. In either event, it would not be returnable.

3) Her best bet would be to try to argue that she was contriburing towards getting an ownership in the home, and now that she can't get that, she should get her money back. But since contracts or agreements in regard to purchasing real estate generally have to be in writing, this would be a hard argument to make and win.


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