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Thomas Swartz
Thomas Swartz, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 3149
Experience:  Twenty one years experience as a lawyer in New York and New Jersey. Former Appellate Law Clerk.
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Here is my question 5 1/2/ years ago, my wife and kids moved

Customer Question

Good afternoon my name is ***** *****. Here is my question5 1/2/ years ago, my wife and kids moved into my father in laws house, we had a verbal agreement that we were not paying any rent even though I offered. The agreement was we were to treat the house like it was ours....meaning repairs, upgrades doing what we wanted with it, the yard...etc. over the course of the last 5 years we probally have put about 50K in repairs and upgrades to the house. Part of the agreement was that at some point the mouse was to be put I to our name. However my father in law has now reneged on this verbal agreement and we are being forced to buy the house, the only issue is that I'm trying to sell my rental house which has been vacant and fixed up and mow on the market, I'm being told that if we can't complete the sale and can't purchase soon we have to be out by Jan 1st. What are my legal rights as far and continue to live in the house and if we can't sell our house and purchase this house, can he kick us out and do I have legal rights based in verbal agreement and have rights to the money I put into the house.
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Thomas Swartz replied 10 months ago.

Hello Daniel,

Unfortunately you are in a bad situation. Contracts for the sale of real estate must be in writing in order to be enforced. This is the law in most states and is known as part of what is called the Statute of Frauds (contracts which must be in writing). This is set forth in Virginia law in Virginia Code Section 11-2. So, unfortunately you would not be able to enforce your father-in-law's promise to transfer the house into your name.

With respect to continuing to live in the house, since there was no written lease, your occupancy of the house would be considered by the law as a month-to-month tenancy. And under Virginia law a landlord is only required give 30 days written notice for a tenant to leave (Virginia Code Section 55-248.37). After this 30 day period, your father-in-law would be allowed to commence eviction proceedings to remove you.

With respect to the money you put in the house, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against him to recoup this money claiming that he was unjustly enriched. But I suspect that he would claim that the 50K that you spent on the house was in effect rent in exchange for you living there without paying formal rent.

So you are in a very tough situation. You won't be able to enforce his verbal promise to transfer the house to you. So you need to buy time to come up with the funds to purchase the house. Negotiation with your father-in-law to allow more time for you to sell your rental house seems like your best course.


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