How can expenses be collected from a co-owner?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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How can expenses be collected from a co-owner?

I am a co-owner of a house and lot. The property is to be sold. My sister owes me one half of the expenses to maintain the property. I think the expenses should be deducted from her sales proceeds.

Asked on July 6, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

How does she "owe" you? If there was an agreement that you would each provide a certain amount of the expenses and she violated her agreement, you could potentially recover the amount she should have paid under the theory of "breach of contract"--though this is *much* easier and more certain if it was a written agreement (since if it was an oral agreement and she does not remember it the way you do, it would, in a lawsuit, come down to your word against hers). You'd have to sue her for the money if she won't voluntarily pay it--you could not unilaterally take it from the sale proceeds.
But if there was no actual (and preferably written) agreement, then she had no obligation to pay the expenses. You may have chosen to pay them yourself, because you thought that paying the maintenance, etc. costs was the right or smart thing to do (and you may well have been right to do so), but your voluntary choice to bear these costs does not become her obligation to pay you. Someone can only become obligated by their agreement to be.

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