The "statute of frauds" generally bars the enforcement of a contract fo the sale of real property. However, there are exceptions to the general rule. For example, performance by one party may prevent the other from asserting the statute of frauds to bar the contract.
Note however that the verbal contract for the sale of land had to be "definite" in that they agreed upon what was being sold and the sale price.
Your friend should consult a local attorney with knowledge of contracts, real estate and litigation.
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I agree with the earlier response. The statute of frauds will likely bar the enforcement of whatever oral agreement there was concerning the property. There are situations when it may not apply, but it will take a very skilled attorney to enforce the oral agreement. The facts might also support a claim for adverse possession, but I strongly suspect that would not work either. Most likely your fried is out of luck, but if it means a lot to them, they should meet with an attorney in their area for a more thorough analysis of their case.
I agree with my colleagues. Your friend has a complex situation and he/she may have prejudiced his/her chances of getting this property by not working through an attorney to set this up properly, in the first place. There could be potential claims for unjust enrichment or some other equitable action that the "tenant", for lack of a better word, can take. Only a lawyer who has had a chance to review all of the facts can let your friend know for sure.
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