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When co-owners don’t agree: Partition actions in real estate

People can end up co-owning real estate together through a “tenancy in common” for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes, co-ownership works out very well.

Other times, it doesn’t. When the co-owners of a piece of property have different ideas about what should be done with the property or they want to end their association, one may end up seeking a partition action. 

What are the basics of a partition action?

A partition action is a legal remedy sought by one or more co-owners to either divide or sell a piece of property when disagreements arise that can’t otherwise be resolved. Usually, these are disputes over the property’s use, management or distribution.

Typically this occurs in the following situations: 

  • There are different investment goals: For example, two siblings inherit a property with one wanting to sell it and cash in their inheritance while the other wants to rent it out for long-term income. 
  • There is some financial strain: For example, two investment partners hold a property for years until one develops financial trouble and wants to sell – but the other (whose finances are stable) resists the idea.
  • There are conflicts over use: This could involve two people who inherit family land and one wants to use it for a residential development while the other wants to keep it as a nature preserve.
  • There are inheritance disputes: Assorted cousins inherit a family home from their parents, but they don’t have close ties to each other and they all have different ownership percentages and most just want to divest themselves of the burden.

Real estate partition actions are useful tools for resolving conflicts among co-owners and ensuring a fair distribution of either the property or the proceeds. Learning more about your options may help you decide if this is a route you want to take.