Legal advice for long time Petworth residents

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Topic: Legal advice for long time Petworth residents

Other March 11, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Legal advice for long time Petworth residents

I am attempting to help my neighbors seek legal help as they deal with a family dispute over a property.  Here’s the gist:
The property originally belonged to the wife’s father, who inexplicably willed his entire estate to the youngest of his five children (the wife’s younger brother) under what appear to be somewhat dubious circumstances shortly before his death in ’98.  Since that time, my neighbors have been living in the home and fully maintaining the property.  There was never any written lease or contact between my neighbors and the brother.  In fact, my neighbors began paying the property taxes once they discovered that the property had fallen into tax sale at some point in the early ’00s (and have record of all payments).  The brother has now decided that he would like to sell the home and hired a lawyer to force my neighbors out of the home.  He has not offered them any compensation of any kind.  
Based on the details above, what’s my neighbors’ best course of action?  I know that there are various DC tenant rights services available to them; however, would such a case be worth private legal representation?  What’s their best case scenario? 
Any advice and/or referrals would be much appreciated.  Of course, I am happy to provide more details on request.

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You may want to recommend that they try mediation, especially since it sounds like a somewhat messy family matter — not just a landlord tenant-type case. Maybe the Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division of the DC Courts can help? An inquiry would be kept confidential, and it looks like no actual court case is needed in order to get into mediation. Not legal advice, but may help them solve the problem.

They need legal counsel – to see if the statue of limitations has passed to contest the will or investigate if any fraud/misdeeds occured. 
This sounds absolutely awful – way to be a nice neighbor.

Definitely need to talk to a lawyer. Don’t know the details in DC, but might have a claim for adverse possession.


Sorry I can’t offer any advice.  I’m curious, what do your neighbors want, or expect should happen?  Setting aside the family connection, aren’t they a tenant paying of the landlord/building owner (who happens to be her brother?)  Are you neighbors trying to claim ownership of the property?

I agree with dcsf – not familiar with DC details, but my first thought is that they might have a claim for adverse possession, which I think would be exciting because that’s one of those things you learn about in law school that never actually applies in real life.

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