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Do I have tenant's rights in my family's home?

When you live with family, as an adult, whether you are a tenant under your city or state's laws may not be clear. In places with strong renter protections, you may satisfy the legal definition of a tenant just by living somewhere for a certain length of time, regardless of whether you signed a lease or pay rent. In some areas, contributing financially, doing household chores, or covering utilities may be considered rent payments, and the basis of someone being considered a tenant.

If you are considered a tenant under your state or local laws, you have the same legal protections as any other renter. This means you cannot be evicted without a court order, and likely have other legal protections as well.

If you are unsure about your legal rights to stay in your family home, ask a lawyer.

Can I be evicted by my parents or relatives?

Once you determine whether you legally qualify as a renter or tenant, then you can figure out whether your relatives can evict you. We will look at two scenarios: if you have an official, signed lease, and if you do not.

If you have a signed lease

If you have a signed lease, your family member (who is now also your landlord) can evict you according to the same rules as a non-family renter. For example, if you do not pay rent or if you violate other terms of the lease, your relatives may evict you. However, because you are a family member, your relative may ask you first to move out, avoiding the legal hassle and paperwork.

If asking does not work, then your relative may proceed with serving you with an eviction notice. Just like with non-family renters, your relative must follow local or state eviction procedures.

If you do not have a signed lease

If you are legally a tenant, even without a signed lease, then your relative may formally ask you to move out.

Without a lease, your tenancy may be considered a tenancy-at-will or month-to-month. If this is the case, your family member may serve you with a lease termination letter, typically giving you 30 to 60 days to move out.

If you do not move out by the deadline, then your relative may move forward with eviction proceedings. Just like when you have a signed lease, your relative must follow the legal procedure for an eviction, including serving you with a written eviction notice and working through the court system. If the law is not followed properly, then you may be dealing with an illegal eviction, which you can fight.

The short answer? Yes, it is legal for your family to charge you rent if you are over 18 years of age. If you are younger than 18, then you will need to reference your local or state laws. Parents cannot really do anything if their child fails to pay rent, as they have a moral and legal responsibility to provide housing for their minor children.

Some relatives who rent to adult family members require a signed Lease Agreement. Others have informal discussions about specific terms, such as how long you plan to rent, whether you will pay rent at fair market value, or if you will get a discount for being a family member. If you are renting from family members, you may want to encourage them to write down their expectations in a formal Lease Agreement to protect both you and your relatives. Remember, this is a business arrangement between you and your family. If the property suddenly changes hands, a written agreement could protect your rights.

What can I do if my relatives evict me?

If your family kicks you out, or forces you to leave, and does not follow the legal eviction process, you may have a wrongful eviction on your hands. A landlord, whether they are related to you or not, can evict you only in the following situations:

  • Your landlord follows the eviction process for your city or state, including giving you notice to pay any rent owed.
  • Your landlord has cause to evict you.
  • If you refuse to move, your landlord asks local law enforcement, such as the sheriff's office, to help evict you. However, they may not try to evict you themselves physically.

Remember that even when renting from family members, you have the right to challenge or appeal any eviction decision in a court of law.

As a renter, it is essential to know your rights under the lease and the law, whether you are renting from family members or not. If you have legal questions, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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