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Did you have any type of agreement about you getting reimbursed for anything you put into the house?
Did you pay rent to him while you were living there?
Ok, then if you can prove what you put into the house and that there was an agreement to reimburse you, then you can sue him under a breach of contract claim. This is over the small claims court limit, so you would need to hire an attorney to represent you in suing him.
Logically it wouldn't make sense to a judge for you to gift him your money to improve his house with no expectation of repayment or reimbursement. So the story makes sense to me and should to a judge.