Is it illegal to tell a dependent to leave without any formal notice or grace period?

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Is it illegal to tell a dependent to leave without any formal notice or grace period?

My friend was recently told by her aunt whom she has been living with since she was 5 that she must find somewhere else to go. She is now 18 but in college and working and is still listed as a dependent under her aunt and uncle. She does not pay rent, however, they have had an ongoing verbal agreement that she could stay if she did chores (which she has). All of a sudden, with no known reason, her aunt told her to give up her keys and move out. She gave her no warning nor time to find a new home. This all took place over 1 day. Is this legal? And if not what would be the proper course of action.

Asked on September 6, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) If she is 18, they can ask her to leave.

2) If there was just an oral agreement--especially one where she did chores in exchange for occupancy--she was a tenant at will. That means that while she can be asked to move out immediately--and could choose to--legally, she is owed 30 days/1 month notice that her tenancy will not be continued. After that month's notice, she'd have to leave or else her aunt could begin eviction proceedings.

If she was kicked out with less notice than that, she could very possibly sue for some monetary damages and/or to have  her tenancy reinstated, at least temporarily. She might wish to speak with a landlord-tenant attorney about her exact rights.

3) If your friend is no longer living there or being supported by the aunt, the aunt can't claim her as dependent--it's tax fraud to do so.

On a non-legal note, if your friend is in college, she should speak with the school's guidance and bursar departments. They may be able to help her find housing and/or subsidies for housing. 


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