Estate of Wells v. Estate of Smith

576 A.2d 707 (1990)

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Estate of Wells v. Estate of Smith

District of Columbia Court of Appeals
576 A.2d 707 (1990)

Facts

In 1955, Lillian Wells (defendant) leased a property to Blanche Smith (plaintiff). During the first year of the lease, Smith paid monthly rent, in addition to utilities. Thereafter, Wells and Smith agreed that, instead of rent, Smith would pay all expenses and taxes associated with the property and make all repairs. In 1960, Wells died testate, leaving all of her property to Wilbert Jenkins and Francis Wells. Smith attempted to inform Jenkins of Wells’s death by letter, acknowledging therein that she was living in the home owned by Wells. The letter, however, was returned as undeliverable. Thereafter, Smith made improvements to the property in addition to ordinary maintenance and repairs. In 1985, Smith brought an action to establish title to the property by adverse possession. Wells’s estate moved for summary judgment, contending that Smith’s possession was never hostile or adverse, but only permissive. The trial court found in Smith’s favor, concluding that Smith had gained title by adverse possession upon Wells’s 1960 death, which had destroyed the previously existing tenancy at will. The Wells estate appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rogers, C.J.)

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