What are my rights as a tenant ifI am living in a home owned by cousin?

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What are my rights as a tenant ifI am living in a home owned by cousin?

I have been occupying the residence at the request of my cousin since he passing of her dad in February. I have been paying rent since July. She had my permission to go into the home and pack her dad’s stuff. While on the road I got call that she had changed locks and thrown all my possessions out of house forbidding me to return until all bills are paid. She was also upset because Iwas keeping the home in a unkept and disrespectful way thereby violating her trust. What are my options, responsibilites, and rights?

Asked on August 25, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) If you are paying rent, you're a tenant--even if there's no written lease, you're still a tenant, albeit under an oral lease.  The fact that the landlord is your cousin is completely irrelevant; all that matters is the landlord tenant relationship.

2) A landlord may NOT simply change the locks on a tenant and throw out possessions. Evictions must be done using the correct legal (court) process and doing the correct paperwork. You may have a lawsuit against your cousin, for such things as the cost of moving, finding a new rental, replacing lost or destroyed goods, etc. You might also be able to force  her to take  you back, at least temporarily (see below). You should speak with an attorney.

3) A landlord may not arbitrarily evict, even using the correct process. Instead, there must be a breach of some term or condition of the lease (though nonpayment of any bills you were supposed to pay would  qualify) or more than merely negligent (e.g. grossly negligent or deliberate) damage to the property or violation of other residents' (including the landlord's) rights, such as by being grossly unhygenic or distrubing the peace. There needs to legal grounds for an eviction.

4) Note that if you are a month-to-month tenant on an oral lease, your cousing could give you 30 days notice that she's not renewing your lease; then if you didn't leave, she could use the eviction process.


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