What are a legal occupant’s rights of continued residence?

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What are a legal occupant’s rights of continued residence?

Living in husband’s long deceased grandparent’s house. Have been in residence 4 years and 4 months. Uncle said that we could live there as long as we wanted. We pay no rent. Now they are trying to kick us out.

Asked on January 31, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First of all there appears to be no ownership rights on your part, no matter how long you have been there, since the owner knew of your presence and consented to it.  This means that there is no claim of "squatter's rights" (adverse possession) that can be made by you.  Accordingly, you can be asked to vacate the premises.  However, you cannot just be thrown out onto the street.   Legally, you must be given proper notice.  If you don't leave at the end of the specified time, then a formal eviction proceeding ("unlawful detainer action") would have to be filed against you. This is true whether or not you paid rent.

By way of explanation, you may be classified as a "licensee" or a "tenant".  A licensee is someone who is invited onto a premises and stays with permission (this status grants a person more rights than a general guest).  A tenant is someone who pays some form of rent (even just the right to stay on the premises in exchange for maintaining it); this is true whether or not a lease was signed.  Either way, you have legal occupancy status in the eyes of the law.  Accordingly, the formal steps for an unlawful detainer action must be taken in order to legally remove you from the premises.

Note:  Notice to vacate must be given before the suit is filed.  In some states this notice can be for a little as 3 days prior, in others as much as 30 days. Each state has its own rules regarding how and when to serve notice.  Additionally, if the property owner fails to comply with all eviction procedures you could file suit against them for wrongful eviction.  This includes any self-help measures that they might take - changing the locks, removing your person belongings, or attempting to physically remove you themself.


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