Q&A - Does sister have a legal right to stay in house I owned with our mother?

Q: I am the owner of a property I held jointly with my widowed mother until sadly she died in hospital last year. Although I did not live permanently at the property I now need to move back as my circumstances have changed. The problem, however, is that when my mother was alive she allowed my sister to stay in the property temporarily following her splitting up from her partner and she is still there. I have asked her to leave so that I can occupy the property as my principal residence but she now refuses to move out. She says she has a “legal right of occupation”. What can I do?

A: If you held the title to the property with your mother as beneficial joint tenants, then as the surviving joint tenant you now hold the entire legal and beneficial interest in the property by way of survivorship and it does not form any part of your late mother’s estate. Your sister would not therefore appear to have any legal right to remain in the property if that is against your wishes.

You should give your sister written notice that consent to occupy is withdrawn and ask that she leaves by a specified date. If she still refuses to leave voluntarily then you will have no alternative but to treat her as a trespasser and issue possession proceedings in the County Court. Once an order for possession is granted to you by the court she will have to leave. As a last resort, if she does not vacate the property within the time specified by the court order then a warrant for eviction can be executed via court enforcement officers. If you do not feel comfortable taking such action you can seek help from a solicitor.