Does a live-in boyfriend who does not pay rent, utilities or other household costs have tenant’s rights?

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Does a live-in boyfriend who does not pay rent, utilities or other household costs have tenant’s rights?

My daughter’s live-in boyfriend of 2 years does not work, refuses to get a job until he achieves an on-line associate or bachelor’s degree and has paid nothing in 2 years. The relationship has sickened and she wants him out. He threatens to tie her up in court with tenant’s rights issues,which she cannot afford as a student. NC eviction forms do not seem to address evicting someone who pays nothing. Absent a specific quid pro quo or written agreement,what are her rights in this situation? Thanks from a mom and dad trying to help.

Asked on November 28, 2010 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I feel for your situation. However, the fact is that a "friend" occupying your (or in your case your daughter's) home may be considered a tenant regardless of whether a lease was signed or rent was paid. In most jurisdictions the law provides that if the occupant paid for things like utilities or food, the payment of these expenses can be considered “rent”. Accordingly, some state laws will treat them as a “tenant”. To remove them from the premises a formal eviction proceeding (“unlawful detainer action”) will need to be filed as in any other landlord-tenant relationship. If no form of rent has been paid, many states permit thre owner/lawful occupant to simply ask the friend to leave and remove their belongings without any legal proceedings. However, in other states, someone who enters a home and stays with permission will be classified as a “licensee”. This status grants the friend more rights than a general “guest.” To revoke the permission to remain on the property, a formal eviction will be needed.

Before suit can be filed, however, the occupant must first be served with a notice to vacate (or “notice to quit”) the premises. This is a more formal way of asking the person to leave the home. In some states this notice can be for a little as 3 days prior, in others as much as 30 days. Additionally, each state has its own rules regarding how and when to serve the notice. Be sure to follow all legally required steps. If the occupant fails to leave by the requested date, an action for eviction can be filed. The judge will issue an order of eviction and a writ of possession (or your state’s equivalent). The order will usually set a vacate date. If the occupant still refuses to leave in violation of the order, law enforcement can then be called. They will remove the occupant, using physical force if necessary.

At this point your daughter should speak directly with a landlord-tenant attorney in her area. Since money is an issue, see if she qualifies for Legal Aid or see if they can recommend someone to help her. Also, check if there is a law school nearby to where she lives; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases. Additionally, contact the local Bar Association in her county; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on your income/circumstances. And she must be aware to follow the law and non’t be tempted to use “self-help” measures (such as changing the locks, etc). Note: If her boyfriend is abusive and is putting her in fear for her safety, the quickest solution is to apply for a protective order. However, this is a temporary measure (typically they exclude the unwanted occupant from using the residence for a stated period of time) so she should still consider eviction proceedings to remove him permanently.


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