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07 Aug 2014
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CONQUERING THE DIVIDE: FORCING THE SALE OF CO-OWNED PROPERTY

Maybe you and several colleagues purchased property decades ago as part of a business venture that has since crumbled? Or you purchased an apartment building with family members to serve as a joint investment, but relations have become strained?  Or a relative passed away, leaving property to you and your siblings?  Perhaps you and a significant other purchased a home together, but are now splitting up?  Regardless of how you came upon your co-owned property, you may need to take action when the relationship deteriorates and one or more of the co-owners needs to undo the deal.  It is often not feasible to continue the status quo, yet there is often no agreement as to how to dispose of the property.  How can you rid yourself of this unwanted property when your co-owners refuse to sell or buy you out?

The law provides an option:  partition and/or sale.  In New York, a person holding and in possession of real property as joint tenant or tenant in common, in which she has an estate of inheritance, or for life, or for years, may maintain an action for the partition of the property.  This can mean one of two things, depending on the type of property.  If the property can be divided, (i.e., a plot of land) and split between the owners it will.  If not, the court will order a sale, with the co-owners splitting the proceeds (i.e., a single family home).  The remedy, contained in New York Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law, Article 9, is available to any one of the co-owners of real estate, and while it is not an absolute right, upon application to a court it is invariably granted as it would not be equitable to require an owner to forego receiving the value of her share of real property until her co-owners are ready to sell.  Partition and sale actions also allow parties to obtain an accounting regarding the value of the property and each other’s interest.

While this point of law makes it easy to determine who has the right to seek partition and sale, where land and rights to land are concerned, things can get complicated.  How do you determine whether to divide or sell the property?  Does it matter whether one person has lived in the residence and the other has not?  What is the process once a court orders a partition and sale?  Stay tuned for more information.

 

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