What if one co-owner of real estate wants to sell, and the other co-owner does not?
When Real Estate Owners Cannot Agree
Short answer: Petition to Partition. Owning real estate, just land or land with improvements is desired by many. Although ownership of real estate is considered an asset, it often entails obligations, such as maintenance, real estate taxes, mortgage, insurance, etc. At times, a real estate owner may not want to own the property. If there is a sole owner, or if all parties agree, the property can be sold. Problems arise when all owners are not in agreement. For example, an unmarried couple lives together in a purchased home, and then breaks up; or siblings inherit a family home and only one wants to keep the home.
Court Ordered Property Sale in Massachusetts
What can be done if one party wants to sell but the others refuse? In Massachusetts, you cannot be forced to own real property against your will. The law provides a solution; property can be partitioned under MGL chapter 241. The person wanting out of the ownership can file a Petition to Partition. An exception is that a property cannot be partitioned if owned by a husband and wife as tenants by the entirety. If the property can be divided, as in the case with unimproved land, the court can split the property and divide the ownership. Sometimes, such as with a single family home where division is not practical, the court can force a sale of the property. The court will appoint an impartial commissioner to oversee the sale of the property.
Preventing Forced Sale
If a party wants to continue owning the property, they can always buy out the other person’s share thereby preventing the sale. If they do not have sufficient assets or financing, a sale is likely.
Division of Proceeds
The Petition to Partition can be filed at the Probate and Family Court in the county where the property is located, or at the Massachusetts Land Court.
Although the process seems straightforward, many issues may arise in conjunction with determining how sale proceeds should be divided. There may be disagreements about the percentage of ownership or contributions made to the property. One party may have made improvements that have increased the value of the property and would like a greater return, or it may be alleged that a party’s neglect of a property has decreased the value.
Settlement is Advantageous
Because the costs of litigation can add up quickly it is advantageous to settle. Otherwise, the parties will exchange evidence through the discovery process and prepare for a trial on any disputed matters. Another advantage to settling the case is that it is final, with no need to worry about appeals.