Elkridge, MD asked in Banking, Contracts and Real Estate Law for Maryland

Q: Good evening. I bought a house with a girlfriend in November of 2014. At the time of buying we had been together about

a year and a couple years. Fast forward we ended up breaking up in June of 2018. Quick detail, her father 'gifted her' $265,000, which is what was used to buy the house. Each month I would pay her Father $1,000, 'morgage' I would also pay USAA home insurance and property taxes twice a year. When I moved out in June 2018, I did not receive a penny. Is this right ? The home is valued now at approximately $380,000.

1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Business Law Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: You fail to identify whose name(s) is/are on the deed. That will determine legal title and ownership. If your name is not on the deed, then you are left with a claim to some equitable ownership interest based on your $1,000 monthy payment toward repaying the $265,000 "loan" to buy the house. Unfortunately, her girlfriend's father is going to claim it was a gift to his daughter (like you characterized it) and will likely further claim you were not repaying a loan or purchasing an interest in the property, but paying rent. Your argument will have to be based on some oral agreement that you were buying the house by paying $1,000/month, and that you and your girlfriend were supposed to be equal owners. Unfortunately, contracts for the transfer of an interest in real property are required to be in writing to be valid and enforceable--oral contracts for such a purchase are not legally enforceable. That does not mean you do not have some contract with your girlfriend regading equal sharing of expenses, for which you can sue for contribution, or that perhaps there are emails or other writings to argue you have some agreed upon terms for you being an owner as opposed to a renter in the property. There is also a rather more exotic legal claim to establish an equitable ownership interest by way of suing to impose a contructive trust over the property to secure your claim to a piece of it. That will get expensive to litigate. Unfortunately, the time to have protected your interest in this property was before, not after, you moved in and paid the monthly and other expenses. However, you might chalk this up simply to what you would have paid in rent had you lived elsewhere all these years.

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