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TJ, Esq.
TJ, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  JD, MBA
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Iv been living in house for going on 21 yrs. was told in beginning

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Iv been living in house for going on 21 yrs. was told in beginning that it would b a rent to own. Recently I got behind and I asked if they could wait til I had some money coming that I'd get caught up. They said ok. Keep in mind they never said or had papers for me to ever sign. Just verbal agreement. In the 21 yrs they never asked to do an inspection. Until recently. She asked told me she had to do an inspection. I dug up my septic 4yrs ago cause we had a problem. N still do. But all he ever done was just covered up septic with boards n overflow ran down driveway in winter. Iv fixed everything that has ever broke down n never charged him for my time. All I ever got was a thanks till better paid. But never any pay. I was recently told that I had to leave n had a hand written notice on door Back when we moved here in 1992he allowed me to build a building for my wood shop. Can they actually make me leave n have nowhere to go. I have two kids that stay with me throughout the week and sometimes weekends
Hello and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you.

I just want to confirm something to help me answer your question: You do not have any terms of your rent-to-own arrangement in writing? Is that correct? Do you have any evidence of the rent-to-own arrangement?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
No. That is correct. There was never any contract on paper or any form of any kind of contract that was signed. Everything was verbal. I kept asking for him to write something up so I had proof. But nothing was ever done. I have 20 years of life accumulated here. And I don't think it's fair to me.
Hi again.

It's certainly not fair to you. I couldn't agree more. Without written documentation, however, you would certainly have an uphill battle proving that you have an ownership interest in the property.

First things first: If you are not able to prove that you have an ownership interest in the property, then you would be viewed as no more than a tenant. If you are considered a tenant, then the owner/landlord can terminate your tenancy with 30 days notice. This would mean that if you refused to vacate 30 days after receiving such notice, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against you, and eventually have you kicked out.

Accordingly, it is imperative that you establish your ownership interest. If the owner/landlord tries to evict you in court, then you can defend yourself by arguing that you have what's called a land installment sales contract, which is basically the legal term for rent-to-own. Now, one of the first issues that you'll have to deal with is that real estate contracts almost always have to be in writing (this requirement is called the "statute of frauds"). For example, you and I could make an oral deal whereby I will sell you a house for a certain price, and we could even video tape our agreement in front of 50 witnesses, and yet, if I were to later refuse to sell you the house, then you would have no case against me if there is no written contract. A judge wouldn't even look at the video or listen to the witnesses because a real estate deal must almost always be in writing. There is an exception, however, which may apply here. The exception is if the parties have already exchanged money. In your case, you have been paying for the last 20 years. So, if the owner were to argue that the "statute of frauds" prevents you from arguing that you had a contract, then you would argue that you have been paying and that your performance under the oral contract relieves you of any obligations to produce a written document. The judge should agree, and allow you to present your evidence that you have a land installment sales contract (i.e., rent-to-own contract). This is when you'd have to produce your evidence.

Although it may seem like you have no evidence without anything in writing, that is not entirely true. First, you have your testimony and the testimony of anybody else who was aware of the oral contract. Second, the fact that you stayed in the house for 20 years and maintained the property and built structures indicates that you believed you had an ownership interest, since regular tenants don't normally stay in a house for that long, nor do they maintain it as their own. There may be other evidence as well, such as if your payments stayed the same over the years rather than increased as the rental market increased. So, you stand a fighting chance if the owner denies your claim and tries to evict you.

Does that answer your question? Please let me know if you need clarification, as I am happy to continue helping you until you are satisfied. Also, your positive feedback is much appreciated. Thank you for using our service!

If you would like to direct additional legal questions to me in the future, then please type "To VAMD" in the subject line of your question.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
The payments were the same for 17 yrs. @ $375. Until the roof blew off under some severe winds back in 2009. At that point he said that he didnt have insurance on the house ( which I knew better cause his son told me. And he was an insurance salesman all of his life ). They never done any kind of upgrade of any kind to it. It still has same carpet n everything it had since day one. Iv replaced faucets, waterheater n chased down 15 different times there was an electrical failure n plumbing leaks. But never charged him for repairs or parts. I'm a self employed plumber / heating/ electrical Repairman. Then he raised rent to $500/ mo
Hi again.

Well, the fact that the rent stayed the same for 17 years lends credence to the claim that there was a land contract in place. It's not proof by itself, of course, but it is certainly something that you'll want to point out when making your argument about the existence of the contract.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you very much for your time and information.
You are quite welcome. Thank you for using our service!

If you would like to direct additional legal questions to me in the future, then please type "To VAMD" in the subject line of your question.

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