Two unmarried people own real estate and one wants to sell. Now What?

When purchasing real estate with an individual (that is not your spouse), we recommend making provisions for contingencies prior to the purchase of the property. Contingencies may include: one partner wanting to sell, one dying, or one not having the financial ability to continue to pay the fair share of real estate expenses.

Our office has experience in the preparation of written partnership agreements, which can be tailored to your needs in order to anticipate future disputes.

Co-ownership can trigger many disputes regarding the rights of co-owners. Depending on the circumstances and facts of your ownership dispute, we can help you determine what type of action is appropriate to resolve your ownership dispute. We suggest the following as potential choices that may benefit you: 1) If the parties are amicable, one person can buy-out the other, or 2) If the parties are adversarial, then you could file a partition or quiet title action (or both).

An action to quiet title is necessary when there is a dispute regarding the right to use, secure, or own real estate in a manner that affects title. If the ownership interests of the various co-owners are uncertain or undefined, then a quiet title action may be necessary. The purpose of partition is to force a sale or division of real property co-owned by multiple people.

Frequently Asked Questions

Tenants in common own an equal share of real estate. Each co-tenant has an equal right to possess or use the entire property, and that the rent of maintenance costs of the property is shared among the co-tenants according to their ownership interest. Each co-tenant also possesses a share in the value of the real estate as it appreciates. Some examples of how tenants in common interest may work: 

Example 1: Owners A, B, and C are tenants in common. A owns a 50% interest in the property while B and C each own a 25% interest. All three have an equal right to possess or use the entire property while they are living in it. But if they choose to rent out the property, A will receive 50% of the rent while B and C each get 25%.

Example 2: Owners A and B are tenants in common, each owning a 50% interest in the property. If A sells his interest to buyer C, then C becomes a tenant in common with B, with 50% interest and an equal right to use the property (regardless of B’s wishes).

Example 3: Owners A and B are co-tenants, each owning a 50% interest in the property. A dies without a will and is survived by his daughter X. So X now owns 50% interest in her father’s property and is an equal co-tenant with B.

Nolo: Joint Property and Concurrent Ownership

Joint tenants must obtain equal shares of the property with the same deed, at the same time. The terms of the joint tenancy are outlined in the deed, title, or other legally binding property ownership document. Divorce or marital issues can complicate a joint tenancy. All debts are owed by both parties and neither call sell their assets that are owned jointly without consent from their partner. Further, joint tenancy gives all assets to the partner not allowing the deceased to pass assets to heirs.
Partition is the division of real estate between two or more co-owners, such as joint tenants or tenants in common.
This type of action is filed with the intended purpose to establish or settle the title to a property. Quiet tile actions are common in the death of title owners, cases of adverse possession, and long periods of time where the property is unoccupied.

Example: Quiet Title Action
You and your partner decide to purchase a home together. However, because your partner has better credit, the two of you decide that only your partner will be on title for financing purposes. You both agree that you own the property 50/50, even though one of you will not be on title. Thereafter, you and your partner have a disagreement and your partner refuses to recognize your ownership interest. Under this scenario, a quiet title action would be necessary to adjudicate your respective ownership interests in the property.

Example: Partition Action
Imagine that you and your siblings purchase an investment property together. Then, you decide that you no longer want to be in business with your siblings and demand that they either 1) buy you out or 2) agree to sell the property to split the proceeds. If your other siblings refuse to cooperate, in this scenario, a partition action would be necessary to obtain the relief you seek.

Interestingly, both a quiet action and a partition could become necessary should you have to force a sale of the property and the other partner refuses. Then you would need to file an action for quiet title to establish your ownership interest and a partition action to force the sale.

Speak to an Experienced Fresno or San Diego Employment Lawyer

Whether a quiet title or partition action is appropriate depends on the specific facts of your ownership dispute, please contact Webb Law Group, APC., at (559) 431-4888 to schedule a consultation with an attorney.


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