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In California, "Bob" was living rent-free for years in exchange for caretaking and minor repairs. There wasn't any written contract.

Six weeks ago, Bob's sister "Sue" began to spend substantial time at the residence during Bob's terminal illness. Now Bob has died, what statute or cases support Sue's claim to have rights as a tenant or squatter? What if Sue is the heir? Does Bob's tenant right pass with the estate possibly?

2 Answers 2

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There are no squatters

Neither Bob nor Sue are squatters: Bob was there with the owner's permission and Sue was there with Bob's. Adverse possession requires possession that is, well, adverse: against the wishes of the true owner.

Bob was almost certainly a tenant, paying rent in services rather than cash. Clearly, the terms of that tenancy are unclear and may not be legal but that is more likely to rebound against the landlord rather than the tenant. So long as the rent (whatever it is) continues to be paid the estate’s tenancy should continue. However, the landlord could start procedures to end the tenancy (probably requiring 1 months notice) at any time.

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    Thanks, I've accepted the answer. Just to be clear, what is the legal mechanism that allows Sue to continue the tenancy on the special favorable terms that Bob had? Is it because of the six weeks she has been there? Or because she's an heir or (possibly) executor of her brother's estate?
    – J. Win.
    May 9, 2022 at 22:51
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    @J.Win. landlord-tenant law is entirely a state affair in the US. Whether Sue is a tenant is controlled by California law, as would be the steps required to end her tenancy (if there is one) and to evict her. In my (very limited) experience in other states, there are rights that accrue because of the six weeks of residence, not because of inheritance, but California could be different.
    – phoog
    May 10, 2022 at 10:45
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    @J.Win. "month-to-month lease" (See Accumulation's answer). If they're there after a 30 day notice to vacate, then they're squatters, the sheriff shows up, puts a sticker on the door that says no trespassing which if they do, they're removed (and likely arrested), and eventually their stuff. Which is not an eviction; those can take months and all laws concerning it are in favor of the tenet.
    – Mazura
    May 10, 2022 at 21:17
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The facts of Bob providing consideration (caretaking and minor repairs) and receiving lodging imply a rental relationship. This apparent relationship can be the basis of protections such as against eviction. I'm not aware of anything allowing eviction protections to be inherited, as they are a protection for the person of the tenant. Eviction protection is different from leasing rights; a person may still be able to fight an eviction even if their lease has terminated.

In the absence of an explicit rental agreement, it will almost certainly be taken to be a month-to-month lease. "In California, if the tenant was on a month-to-month the tenancy terminates 30 days after their death." https://www.fastevictionservice.com/blog/dealing-with-death-of-tenant-california-laws So from that, it appears that even if Sue is not found to be a tenant, she would be able to retain tenancy for 30 days. If she is found to be a tenant, then the land owner would have to give her 30 days notice before terminating the tenancy, and Sue could, if she wish, require the owner to go through eviction proceedings.

Whether Sue was a tenant would depend on issues that your question is unclear on, such as to whether she stayed overnight and if so how often, and if the owner was aware of her presence. If she is found to have been a tenant for the six weeks, then as that is more than 30 days, she would be considered a long term tenant, giving her significant tenant rights.

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