My granddaughter’s father, who is also a friend, had nowhere to stay so he asked if I would let him stay at a vacant house I owned. He was having a hard time, so I ended up having to put his name on the deed so he could stay there. We agreed to $300 monthly rent as the house was in poor condition and small. He was to be responsible for the house as we were really planning on just selling it to a ‘rehabber’ as we had no interest in being landlords nor doing major repairs. Fast forward three years and thousands of dollars of non-rent he decides his name is on the house and he is no longer going to pay the rent. He said that basically he’s done with me and keeping my house. He has a pit bull running around so I can’t even access the house.
What can I do?
Outwitted in Illinois
When you wrote that you put his name on the deed of the home, my first thought was, ‘I know how this is going to end up.’ I can’t see why it would make sense under any circumstances or why the city would care if his name on the deed or not, but he gave you a story, and you believed him. Then you signed on the dotted line. As Judge Judy would say, “That was your first mistake.” You didn’t have to do this, but you somehow felt ‘guilted’ into this. Your second mistake would be to lose sleep over this or pursue him through the court. It would cost you, and you likely would have no chance of success. Once you put someone’s name on the deed of a home, it’s pretty much irreversible.
You’re stuck with him, I’m afraid, pit bull or no pit bull. He now owns half of your home, assuming your name is on the deed too. You could attempt to take a “partition lawsuit” to remove his name from the deed, which would be costly. Given the circumstances, you would likely still have to pay him for his share of the house as he is a legal owner. There might be a chance if you could prove you were not of sound mind, there was coercion or some other kind of emotional abuse, but (a) that would be hard to prove and (b) that doesn’t appear to be the case here. It seems like you felt sorry for him, he had no place to live, and you decided to put him on the deed.
But there is a valuable lesson here for other people considering the same thing with, perhaps a friend or lover, which may be of little consolation to you now. Even if you were in love with this man and you were hoping to live happily ever after, you should think twice about putting his name on the deed of your home. For instance, if he moved on and racked up debts somewhere else, a court in Illinois could put place a lien — that is, a legal claim — against your property for this man’s failure to pay a debt. (In Illinois there is a homestead exemption that makes it difficult for a debtor to collect on a home that is a primary residence.)
The Moneyologist receives a fair share of letters from people who fight and scrape to get their share of a family home. You’re not one of them. This is an opportunity for self-examination. Did you feel like your granddaughter or her father, or even God would think you were a bad person for not helping him out? You can’t make decisions based on what others might think. The disease to please can be an addiction, according to Harriet Braiker, the late clinical psychologist and author of “The Disease to Please.” People-pleasers are not just nice people, she wrote. For them, “the uncontrollable need for the elusive approval of others is an addiction.”
Take heart. You’re not the first person to do a good deed only to have a proverbial dump truck pull up in your yard as a thank-you. Chuck in Boston has been chasing $15,000 he loaned a friend a decade ago and Mary in Oaks, Penn. wrote in to say her husband loaned a family friend $175,000 four years ago and has been trying to get him to pay it back. The kind of person who accepts free money without a written loan agreement is unlikely to want to give it back. And the kind of person who persuades a friend or relative to sign over his/her house on a temporary basis is unlikely to give it up once he has his slippers under the coffee table.
They have the disease to please, too. But they only want to please themselves.
Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyologist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).
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