My sister and I own a house jointly, 50/50. Her 50% has survivorship to her daughter, mine to my husband. She lives in the house and I do not. She believes that since she is an owner, she does not need to pay any form of rent. How can I counter this with her; what argument should I use that she should be paying something, even if it's only toward upkeep?
Survivor beneficiaries are irrelevant to the current situation.
At a minimum, you and your sister are each responsible for 1/2 of the fixed costs of the house (property taxes, mortgage, acceptable home insurance, necessary repairs, homeowner fees if any, etc.). Utilities are her responsibility because she resides there. This would be fine if you feel that this is an investment property (your half) with potential for appreciation.
Should you believe that you deserve it, what is fair recompense to you from your sister for living in a house that she only pays only 50% of these maintenance costs is subject to negotiation. Should you fail to come to an acceptable agreement then your only recourse is to force the sale of the house, either your half to her or to a third party should your sister prefer that route.
The best approach is to talk to your sister and see if you can come to an amiable agreement.
As I mentioned to another member, I understand your question is not about selling. But, you can use it as a logical point. "If we sell the house, we would each get about $XXX, and I'd be able to invest that money as I wish. Right now, the house isn't giving me any income, just costing me money."
Another approach - "We both own the house, but you are the only one benefitting. We both pay the expenses, but you are getting the benefit of not having to pay any rent. I live elsewhere and have my own cost of rent/mortgage, but am also paying the cost for upkeep on a house you live in."
Another - "You are right, you are an owner, and have every right to live here. The movers are coming next Thursday, and I'll be joining you in our house, for the foreseeable future."
Last - "If we rented the house out, we'd get $2000/mo, and from that money, we'd have all our expenses covered, property tax, insurance, maintenance, etc. And, there would be a bit left over, which we'd split. I'm not asking you to write me a check every month, but with no rent coming in, it's not equitable for me to chip in for these costs, in effect, subsidizing your income. If you are unwilling to pay the expenses for the house you live in, I suggest we sell it, and move on."
If the first 1/2 owner can't bring forth a buyer or a long-term renter for the house then I think that the second 1/2 owner can live in the house as a care-taker.
It might be expected that the second 1/2 owner pay the property taxes and insurance. In fact if the second 1/2 owner is paying the property taxes and insurance then they do have a strong claim in the situation.