Does a person have the right to stay in an apartment they’ve been living in for 5 years with someone even though they don’t pay any of the bills or rent and their name is not on the rental agreement?

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Does a person have the right to stay in an apartment they’ve been living in for 5 years with someone even though they don’t pay any of the bills or rent and their name is not on the rental agreement?

A friend of mine has a child with his ex-girlfriend and they’ve been living together for 5 years. Only his name is on the lease and he pays all the rent and bills. They got into a dispute where he threw his keys at a sliding glass door and shattered it. She called the cops and he was arrested. He was released the next day and he’s not allowed to see his son for a couple days. He wants her to move out since it’s his apartment but the cops told him that she has every right to be there since she’s lived there for 5 years. Can this be correct?

Asked on December 15, 2018 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

No, the police are wrong: no one (other than a spouse) has a right to remain in property which she does not own or rent once the owner and/or actual tenant wants them to go. It is true however that as someone who lived there with permission, she cannot simply be locked out by your friend. Rather, he needs to bring a kind of legal action traditionally called an action "for ejectment" (your state may have a different name for it), which can be thought of as "eviction for a non-tenant" (that is, someone not paying rent to live there) and get a court order for her removal, which order will then be carried out by a sheriff or constable.
This type of action can be very technical--a small mistake in the "notice" or warning to leave which has to be provided, or in how the action is filed, can result in the case being dismissed. Your friend is advised to retain an attorney to help.
Also complicating matters is the child, since there is a vulnerable minor involved--again, your friend really needs the assistance of an attorney.


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