Saturday, March 4, 2017
The house was left to two siblings but only one lives there. What about paying expenses?
Posted by Lynne Butler
"My friend's father passed away and left half the house to my friend and half to her brother who is very well off. My friends is collecting CPP which is just under $600 a month. Her brother told her that she could live in the house as long as she pays all the maintenance fees and bills. Doesn't the brother have to pay half of the main bills like property tax, house insurance as long as the house isn't sold? My friend lived there with her parents all her life."
The house has two owners now, and they can come to any agreement they wish when it comes to the occupancy of the house. It seems to me that your friend has come out on top of the deal in this case. In most cases, joint owners of a property will share the expenses that preserve the house, which include those you mention such as maintenance, property tax, and insurance. However, in most cases, the home is not occupied by one owner at no cost while the other owner lives elsewhere at his own expense.
You wonder whether the brother might "have to" pay half the bills. In other words, you think your friend should insist on him paying for the upkeep of his half. But if she insists on him meeting every obligation of an owner, shouldn't she expect him to also get every benefit of being an owner? This would of course mean that she should be paying him rent at fair market value to live there, and I doubt she wants to do that.
In most cases where two siblings inherit a house together, one has to buy the other one out if she wants to live there. That is another right the brother could insist upon if your friend decides that everyone has to go strictly by the book.
The fact that she lived there all her life with her parents does not entitle her to live there for free now. The house has new owners so all past arrangements are off. It would be great for your friend if she could continue to live rent-free without having to move, but her brother has rights, too. It seems to me that he has made a generous arrangement that is much more to your friend's advantage than it is to the brother. He can't live there and can't sell it, and doesn't make a dime in rent, but still carries the responsibility and liability of owning a property.
Another option is for the house to be sold and the money divided between them. Your friend could then use her half of the funds to find a cheaper place to live. However, without knowing the parents who set up their wills to leave the house to both children, I would say that the brother is doing his best to carry out what he sees as his parents' wishes. Let's hope for your friend's sake that his financial situation does not take a turn for the worse so that he must insist upon a sale of the house.