Can My Brother Evict Me if I Lawfully Own the Property?

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In the summer of 2013, I moved to Texas with my infant daughter to “start over.” I lived with my brother until an agreement was made with our mother and stepfather. They were going to lose their property and trailer house due to unpaid back taxes. My brother and I discussed their situation and then made a deal with our parents that if my brother paid the back taxes of $1,800, he would give them a travel camper to own and use however they wished, and they were to sign over property to him. I would then pay my brother the amount it cost for back taxes and any other fees associated with the transfer of property. We verbally agreed that I would pay all costs and my brother advised me not to worry about any type of payments until I was able to get on my feet, financially stable and after needed repairs and remodeling were completed.
Approximately 6-8 months ago I began asking him to get an itemized contract drawn up with the total owed for the property so we could sign and discuss how much I would be paying him monthly. I requested the contract on many occasions and his response was always to let him get with his wife so she could write it up (my brother works off the coast of Mexico on an oil rig and is gone 30 days at a time then home 30 days). Earlier this month I received a text from his wife asking me when a good time would be the following day to bring by a potential buyer for the property. It has been down hill from there. I first received a 3 day notice to vacate. Then after the 3 days passed, I was served a court lawsuit for eviction, past unpaid rental payments for the duration I’ve been living and repairing the property, damages to property and to pay for the cost of her lawyer. Eviction is for breach of lease agreement. I go to court on November 24. I can’t afford an attorney but have 7 witnesses that will testify to the verbal agreement and the above statements. My brother had since returned home and appears to be sticking with his wife’s decision. Is having the 7 witnesses including previous property owners enough to not be evicted and fined from what’s to be my property? Is there anything I can do for what she is doing to my daughter and me? I can only assume she falsified documents if she’s claiming there is a lease agreement.

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

You should really have an attorney review this. If you’re unable to afford one, there may be low-income assistance for renters in your area. Your situation is complicated. If you’re in possession of property that you do not own, then legally you are some sort of tenant, and there is some sort of eviction proceeding that can be brought. Exactly what type of tenancy you have, and what the proper procedure is to evict, may vary If you’re lucky, your brother has made a technical error which will invalidate his eviction attempt — this time. But ultimately, all that buys you is some extra time, since he can start over with the correct procedure.

Your witnesses may or may not be helpful. Most transactions involving real property (land) are subject to a law known as the statute of frauds. The exact details vary from state to state, but generally it requires that certain types of contracts must be in writing in order to be enforceable. Depending on the details of your agreement with your brother, and the laws in your state, the statute of frauds may or may not apply. If it does, though, then your witnesses are useless because the agreement they’re testifying to can’t be enforced anyway.

As to what you can do, this sounds like a prime candidate for some informal family discussions to work out something more acceptable to all parties. Failing that, you may be able to get some extra time to move, in the court’s discretion. And, of course, you should ask to be reimbursed (or at least credited toward rent) for any improvements you’ve made to the property.

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Author: House Attorney