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Parting Ways with Co-Owned Property – Partition Actions in Florida

 A partition action is a legal proceeding involving jointly owned property. Owning real estate with another can be fraught with many challenges and disagreements. Unfortunately, not all disputes can be resolved amicably. In instances where owners cannot reach an agreement on whether to sell their property or the specifics of its sale, a partition action may become necessary. 

                A partition is a civil action that property owners can file to force the sale of a jointly owned property. Save for a few exceptions, owners possess the right to have a property partitioned, even if another co-owner objects to the sale. In cases where a co-owner refuses to sell jointly owned property, filing for a partition allows the courts to intervene and determine the appropriate process to sell and distribute the sale proceeds. Partition actions are governed by Chapter 64, Florida Statutes.

                In Florida, partition actions primarily fall into two categories: partition in kind and partition by sale. Partition in kind takes place when the property is capable of being physically divided, allowing the court to divide the property into separate titled parcels.

This typically arises with large and rural or undeveloped land. Partition by sale occurs when physical division of the property is unfeasible, necessitating a private sale or public auction. This method is often utilized for properties such as houses or other buildings which cannot be separated.

                After the property is sold, the court must determine how to distribute the proceeds from the sale. The starting point is that the proceeds should be allocated among each owner in proportion to their interest in the property. For instance, if each party had 25% ownership interest in the property, then each owner is entitled to 25% of the proceeds. However, deviations from this proportional allocation are permitted, allowing an owner to receive a higher or lower percentage of the proceeds.

                When filing a partition action for the sale of property, an owner can request for an accounting to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of the sale proceeds. This accounting allows the allocation of the sale proceeds to be adjusted based on a multitude of factors, including property expenses, ouster, and income derived from the property.

                If a co-owner has contributed more than their fair share of expenses associated with the property, such as mortgage payments, property taxes, and essential maintenance costs, they may be entitled to a larger portion of the sale proceeds. All co-owners bear responsibility for property expenses, but the court can adjust the distribution of proceeds through an accounting process if one owner has contributed disproportionately. Furthermore, if an owner has been denied access to the property—known as ouster—they may seek reimbursement for the reasonable rental value of the property. An example of ouster includes situations where a co-owner changes the locks to prevent others from entering the property. In such cases, the allocation of sale proceeds may be adjusted accordingly. Additionally, if one owner has derived rental income from a third party’s use of the property, the other co-owners are entitled to a share of that rent.   

                If you’re involved in a partition action, it’s crucial to seek guidance from a seasoned attorney. A skilled lawyer can assist you in understanding the legal proceedings and safeguarding your rights throughout the process. With years of experience in handling partition cases, the Rice Law Firm is well-equipped to provide expert counsel on this matter and other legal concerns you may have. If you would like to consult with an experienced attorney on these issues and other legal matters, please give us a call at 386-257-1222.