Are you and a co-owner of a house or condominium arguing about what to do with it? There may be a dispute over who should live there, whether to sell it to a third party, or how much one owner should pay to the other in a buy out arrangement. Perhaps you and the other person purchased the property to live in together as part of non-marital intimate relationship that has now gone south. Perhaps you are uncomfortable dealing with a family member who co-owns property jointly received through an inheritance.
If you find yourself in such a situation, you are not alone. Today millions of unmarried couples buy property together and later find themselves in a quandary over what to do with it after the relationship ends. Parents may give property to siblings who mistrust each other and can’t agree on how to manage it. Bad feelings between the co-owners can complicate efforts to reach an agreement on whether to sell or keep the property, who should live in it if kept, as well as the terms for purchasing an owner’s interest.
In California, a partition action may be filed to divide the interests of co-owners other than spouses. (For married couples, property division and disposition is part of a dissolution of marriage proceeding.) In most cases, the court will simply order the property sold and the net proceeds divided according to the respective interests of the parties (i.e., a one-half owner will get a 50% distribution) with some equitable allowance for property-related expenses paid by each owner prior to the sale. Attorney fees and costs of sale (e.g., costs of a receiver, real estate commissions) can put a major dent in the final distribution received by each owner.
Fortunately, there is a better way: a negotiated settlement agreement that saves each party thousands of dollars in litigation-related expense. An attorney experienced in handling co-ownership disputes can guide an owner to a resolution that makes more financial sense than a court-mandated sale. Mediation and other settlement-facilitative processes can be employed to arrive at a resolution that is reasonable to both or all owners and saves them from making a major, often inordinate investment in litigation.
I have handled dozens of co-ownership disputes that have been settled through negotiation without the need for a court-ordered sale of the property. Contact me if you have legal questions about how to extricate yourself from an uncomfortable and often unsustainable co-ownership arrangement. I have helped many people in similar situations and can help you.