Can a life tenant be charged rent if the operate a business on the premises?

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Can a life tenant be charged rent if the operate a business on the premises?

I have been granted a life estate and have been a tenant for 6 years, since our mom died. In her Trust she said that I could live in the family house as long as I want, rent free. I have also been doing childcare in the family house since 1993 and still doing it, Now my sister wants to charge me rent for operating a business in the family house. Is this legal or not?

Asked on July 24, 2014 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

No, a life tenant cannot be charged for such an activity. The fact is that a life tenant has all of the same rights and privildges of ownership as an owner of the property would have (with the notable exception of not being able to sell it). So if the zoning in your area allows for the operation of a homebased childcare facility, then you are freely able to conduct such a business on the premises and, just like an owner, not be charged for it. A remainderman (i.e. the person who inherits the property after the life estate ends upon your death) could bring an action against you if you allowed "waste", that is if you didn't maintain the property. However, other than that they have no right to say what you do with your life estate or charge you a fee for doing so. 


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