LaBre on Law: It’ll take a miraclePublished 9:34pm Thursday, September 20, 2012
By Robert W. LaBre, J.D.
“You’re kidding,” I said.
“Nope. Despite my pleading and threats to sue, she wouldn’t budge. That’s when I decided to come see you,” he said.
“And I suppose you have nothing in writing?” I said more as an assumption than a question.
“Because without a writing to the contrary, what you did is considered a gift under the law.”
He recently broke up with his girlfriend, who he’d been living with for the past 12 years.
The property where they lived together is located in Michigan and titled in her name alone.
He works in residential construction, and during the relationship he built a new porch on her home, along with a new addition that included two bedrooms and a full-sized bathroom connected to the master bedroom, all of which he paid for out of his pocket.
As he was moving out of the home he demanded payment for his work and the expenses associated therewith. She refused.
“You mean to tell me that I can’t get a penny for what I put into that home!” He exclaimed.
“That’s correct,” I said. “Michigan courts have consistently held that to allow otherwise would have the effect of reintroducing common law marriages, which was statutorily prohibited by the legislature back in the 1950s. But the law makes an exception if you both entered into a contract stating that you were to be paid for your labor and materials.”
“But we did agree to that!” the man said. “She said she would repay me!”
“That was an oral agreement though,” I said. “Michigan’s statute of frauds requires agreements dealing with land to be in writing, and signed by the person against whom enforcement is sought.
“Here, you’re suggesting that the court should enforce an oral contract that deals with land against your ex-girlfriend — who you were living with for 12 years — when you name isn’t on the deed and there’s no writing whatsoever. I’m sorry, but there’s no case here.”
“This is an injustice. She’s getting a windfall. Think up a miracle, would ya?” he said in a frustrated, angry tone.
I smiled at him and replied, “That’s easy — reconcile and put a ring on her finger.”
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