We frequently receive calls from clients who are having disagreements with a friend or family member regarding real property the parties jointly own. This is particularly common in situations where a person passes away and leaves real property to his or her children or other beneficiaries. Often, the beneficiaries do not agree as to how the property should be managed.
For example, John Doe, a widower, dies intestate (i.e., without a will), and his house passes to his three adult children – Adam, Betsy, and Carl. Adam wants to sell the house immediately so he can pay off his student loans and credit card debt. Betsy wants to place the house for rent, but she does not want the responsibility of managing the property (e.g., collecting and distributing rent to her siblings, scheduling maintenance and repairs, communicating with tenants, etc.). Carl just lost his job, and he would like to move into the property; however, he cannot afford to pay any rent to his siblings and plans to pay only one-third of the community assessment fees, maintenance, and property taxes while he lives there. After several very heated discussions, the siblings cannot reach an agreement as to how the property should be managed.
Because Adam wants to sell the property and the co-owners of the property will not cooperate with the sale, his solution is to file a partition action. Florida law provides this option for beneficiaries who find themselves in a dispute with a co-owner regarding how to manage jointly owned real property. Any owner of real property (e.g., house, condo, vacant lot, boat dock, etc.) has the right to file a partition action against the co-owners, requesting that the court order the sale of the property. If the filing beneficiary prevails in the partition action, the court will order the sale of the property, and the proceeds from the sale will be divided among the beneficiaries in accordance with each beneficiary's proportionate ownership interest. Also, if a co-owner causes unnecessary delays in the partition action, the filing co-owner may be entitled to have his or her attorneys' fees and costs paid from the sales proceeds before distributions are made to the respective co-owners.
If you have questions about your rights concerning real property you own jointly, please call our office for a free consultation.