When it comes to owning a home, co-ownership is certainly not uncommon. Even if one were to ignore co-ownership between a husband and wife, there are times when multiple siblings inherit a home from a deceased parent, or scenarios under which friends and family split the cost of a mortgage by jointly owning a home.
Unfortunately, even the best laid plans sometimes go awry. As an attorney who concentrates in property law, I all too often meet with individuals who are stuck sharing a home with a friend or family member when they can no longer peacefully coexist.
The first question I always ask a client is whether there is any chance the parties can work together to sell the home, split the proceeds, and move on with their lives. Lawsuits are never inexpensive and the emotional toll of prolonged litigation is something that should never be discounted. Fortunately, even if a cooperative approach is not feasible, Florida law provides a remedy for those who wish to escape the weight of co-ownership.
A partition lawsuit is an action whereby one or more of the owners request that the court divide the property. If the property cannot be physically divided such as is the case with a home, the court can order that the property be sold with the proceeds being distributed among all of the owners. Although the money is generally split based on each individual’s percentage of ownership, a party can seek extra reimbursement for the expenses they have previously contributed toward the property. Under the terms of the law, all owners are bound by the judgment making a partition the perfect remedy when parties refuse to cooperate.
The party who brings the action can generally seek recovery of their attorney’s fees – at least whatever portion of the fees went toward bringing about the partition. Although it certainly has its benefits, co-ownership is a serious commitment. If you are thinking of owning a piece of property along with another individual, or if you are currently involved in a difficult joint tenancy, feel free to contact our office for more information regarding partitions.