Can I sue my landlord for misleading me for 5 years regarding buying the property?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I sue my landlord for misleading me for 5 years regarding buying the property?

I have lived in my home 5 years under a verbal land contract agreement with my sister, although nothing has ever been in writing. We agreed on $19,000 then 2 years later she changed the price to $25,000. Then, 6 months ago she received the final payment but

wouldn’t sign over the property. Now she is trying to evict me that saying I was renting the property and have failed to make payments. I still haven’t received anything in writing. I have paid for all repairs and renovations.

Asked on March 24, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Under what is commonly called "the statute of frauds" in your state, this agreement had to have been in writing: an agreement which will take more than one year, or an agreement to sell something worth more than $1,000, must in writing to be enforceable. Therefore, it appears that you cannot enforce this agreement. 
You may still be able to sue her on a different (non-contractual) ground to get compensation, such as fraud (if you can show she never intended to honor the agreement) or possibly unjust enrichment (it is unfair to a degree which is illegal to let her keep all the money), BUT--
1) If the amount you paid is more or less what the fair market rent for this home would have been for this period of time, then due to your "use and occupancy," she'll be able to keep the money, since you got the value of occupying it; even if the amount you paid is high, she can keep whatever would have been the fair market rent and you'd potentially only get back the excess.
2) It is most likely that all you can do is get some money back (see above); you won't be able to force her to sell the home to you since the agreement was not in writing and so cannot be enforced.
For future reference: NEVER enter into an unwritten agreement for anything expensive, valuable, or important, not with your sister, not with your mother, not with your child, not with the President, not even with the Pope. Always put important agreements in writing.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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