Landowner/ non contracted tenant

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Landowner/ non contracted tenant

My mother owns her own land and home. A few years ago her sister came out of a bad situation and needed help back onto her feet. She was given a trailer home which my mother had let her put on a corner of her land. The area around the trailer came into terrible disrepair due to negligence of my aunt. My aunt was never asked to pay any rent, she used my parents water and electricity. She has recently begun living a poor lifestyle again and has taken off to who knows where and has not lived in the trailer for about 6 months now. My mother has asked her to move the trailer off of her land. She has offered to help her either have it moved or to help find a buyer who would move it. She sister is unhappy and has threatened to hire a lawyer. Should my mother be concerned as the property owner? Should she consider hiring a lawyer as well?

Asked on January 26, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) If she never paid any rent, she is NOT a tenant: tenants pay rent. (That is essentially the definition of a tenant: someone who pays rent for the use and possesion of space). People who don't pay rent are not tenants.
2) If she is not paying rent, she is legally a guest, the same as, say, an old high school or college friend whom you let sleep on the pullout coach when their significant other kicks them out. A guest has no rights to remain there: they remain only long as the property owner lets them stay. A guest can be asked to leave at any time, for any reason or no reason at all (other than that the property owner wants them gone). If they don't leave after receive written notice to leave (and usually you provide a reasonable time to leave--generally a month for those who have been there awhile), a type of legal action traditionally called an action "for ejectment" (though your state may have a different name for it) can be brought for a court order removing them. You can think of his legal action as "eviction for non-tenants.")
3) Yes, your mother should get an attorney to help her, from drafting and send the initial notice to leave to bringing the legal action. While your mother's fundamental right to remove her sister is undoubted (given that the sister has not paid rent rent and so is a guest), the legal action is somewhat "technical"--small paperwork errors can force you to start over. Hence, it is better to have a lawyer help.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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