Can I charge my brother for half of the improvements I made in my father's house?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 17, 2016
Maggief731 asked...

MY FATHER LET ME STAY IN HIS HOUSE AFTER HE DIED, LETTING ME DECIDE IF AND WHEN TO SELL. I PUT IN ALOT OF MONEY TO KEEP THE HOUSE UP, BEFORE I SOLD IT. HE GOT HALF, SHOULDNT HE HAVE TO PAY FOR HALF OF MY IMPROVEMENTS?


Expert Answers

You want to know if you can charge your brother for half the cost of improvements you made to your father's house, before you sold it. Ethically, I believe you should be able to recover half your costs from your brother. However, I gather that your brother has already received half of the net profits from the sale, without any deduction for his share of the cost of the improvements. If that's the situation, the question becomes how can you get money back from your brother, assuming he does not want to voluntarily give it? You could hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit, but lawyers are expensive and it's not clear, to me, that you would prevail. I do not know enough of the precise circumstances to try to predict the outcome of a lawsuit.

One possibility is to file a suit in your local small claims court. The maximum amount you can sue for in small claims court varies by state. The advantages of small claims court are that neither side can have a lawyer, and small claims court judges generally try to decide what's right, rather than worry about rules of evidence or legal technicalities.

If you still have all the proceeds from the house sale, you can simply deduct the cost of improvements before dividing the rest into two equal shares, and giving one to your brother.

In reality, this may prove to be yet another example of the truth of the maxim: "Possession is nine-tenths of the law."