Can you assist with the following:
A father intended to buy a house through the municipality and applied for it at the municipality and his application was accepted. Since he did not have enough money, his eldest son paid the installments of the house and consequently had the house registered in his name. The father lived in this house throughout his life, and everyone knew it to be HIS house. He now passed away, and the issue of his estate has erupted. The eldest son claims that the house belongs to him since he paid for it and it is registered in his name, whereas the other heirs claim that the house was actually the fathers and thus the normal rules of inheritance should take place. What will be the ruling in this regard?
Wa’alaykum as Salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,
As far as my understanding goes, the procedure of procuring a municipal house is that a potential buyer has to first apply for a house to the local municipality. Once the municipality is satisfied that the applicant qualifies to receive a state-subsidized house, a house is allocated to him and he is required to pay a deposit on the house. Thereafter, he pays a monthly “rental” towards the house which is, in reality, a monthly installment towards paying off the entire house over a specified period. The buyer also has the option of paying off the entire house with a lump sum if he can afford to do so. The house is then formally transferred onto his name at that point of time. If the situation in the inquired case was as explained above, then the actual owner of the house was the father, even though on paper the house was on the eldest son’s name. The son paying off the house would be considered as a favour and a goodwill gesture of the son towards his father for which he would be deserving of great reward.
On the other hand, if the above mentioned scenario was NOT the situation in the inquired case and the monthly payments WERE in fact, rental payments (in other words the late father did NOT apply for the house as a potential purchaser and he had merely contracted a rental agreement with the municipality); then the father CANNOT be considered to be the owner of the house. In such a case, when the municipality offered the house for sale to the occupants of the house, the municipality did not specifically offer it to any individual, but left it open to any of the household occupants who could afford to purchase it. It appears that the father probably could not afford to purchase the house, with the result that the eldest son then purchased it. Hence, the agreement of sale in this case was between the municipality and the eldest son, which is why he (the eldest son) put the house onto his own name. If this was the situation, then the house belongs solely to the eldest son and the other heirs do not have any right in it. He (the eldest son) can then give the entire house to the youngest son if he so wishes.
And Allaah Ta’aala knows best
Ismail Moosa (Mufti)