How to partition jointly held property
So, Mom left you and your least favorite sibling the house…in joint ownership. The both of you decide to keep it while one of you lives in it, maintains it, and pays the upkeep on it (i.e. taxes etc.) until one day the relationship and the land arrangement goes sour. Or in another instance, you are romantically involved with someone and decide to save expenses and buy a house together. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t work out and you’d like to move on but you’re not sure what to do about the house. In both cases, you need to find out what your rights are as a joint owner of the property with respect to Florida real estate law. So…
What are your rights?
As joint owner of real property in Florida, you have the right to determine how the land is used just as much as the other joint owners of the property. If all of the owners cannot agree then you have the right to file a partition action under Chapter 64 of the Florida Statutes. A partition action seeks to evenly divide up the land among the joint owners according to their percentage ownership e.g. in thirds for three owners who hold equal interests in real property.
The complaint may be filed to partition the property “in kind” meaning the court will divide up the property evenly into sections based on each owner’s percentage of interest. For example, a 2 acre empty lot owned by two individuals may be divided up into two 1 acre lots that are of equal value. In these instances, the court will appoint or the petitioners will agree to appoint three commissioners who will determine if and how the property can be divided up. Parties may object to the determinations made by the commissioners if the results are unfair.
What about the house?
If the commissioners determine or the parties agree that the land cannot be equally divided (this most often happens in cases where there is a house on the property), then the court will order that the land be sold. The court may order a public auction upon issuing a partition. Or if the parties agree, the property can be sold in a private sale.
Arrangements can also be made if one owner would prefer to keep the house. In that case, the parties can agree that one owner will buy out the other owner’s interest and become sole owner.
This can all be arranged outside of court if the parties are amiable. However, if need be, a partition action can be filed in order for a part owner to exercise his right to partition.
And who pays my attorney?
Attorney’s fees, costs, and fees are apportioned among all the parties involved and are distributed equitably. Most of the time, the court will require that the costs, attorney’s fees, and fees are paid from the total sale price and the remainder of the money is then divided according to each party’s interest.
If you are in a joint ownership situation and you would like to get out of it call an experienced Florida real estate attorney at Boatman Ricci at 239-330-1494.
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