If my dad passed and left me his house but ex-girlfriend will not give me the keys to the property, what do I do?

UPDATED: Jun 5, 2011

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If my dad passed and left me his house but ex-girlfriend will not give me the keys to the property, what do I do?

Asked on June 5, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New York


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I assume that she was living there with him.  If she paid rent or helped out with utilities, mortgage payments, etc, she will probably be considered to be a "tenant". If she didn't pay any form of rent, then she will be considered to be a "licensee" (a person invited onto to the premises), now that such permission to remain has been revoked by the lawful owner she must vacate the premises. Either way, you will have to file an unlawful detainer action (i.e. eviction) to legally remove her from your home.

You now need to deliver to this woman a 30-day notice to vacate (preferably in writing).  If she does not do so by the specified date, you can then file suit in court.  If the judge rules in your favor, she will then be ordered by the court to vacate the premises.  If she fails to do so, at that point the sheriff will remove her (forcibly if necessary).

In the meantime do not undertake any "self-help" measures such as changing the locks, attempting to remove her things, etc. If you do you may well find yourself on the wrong side of a lawsuit.  At this point, you should contact a real estate attorney that specializes in landlord/tenant matters. They can best advise as to the correct procedures for all of this.

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