What are an owner’s rights to sell jointly held property?

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What are an owner’s rights to sell jointly held property?

I am a university student living with my mother in a house. This house was left in Will by my grandparents to their 3 children(my mother, my uncle (mentally ill), my other uncle). The house is divided into 3 equal shares (33.3% each) between the children. Now, my uncle wants to sell the house, effectively leaving my mother and I without housing. Does my one uncle (not mentally ill) have the legal authority to sell of the house? Why or why not?

Asked on December 18, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The fact is that one co-owner can force the sale of jointly held property. Specifically, an action for partition would be the appropriate legal vehicle. This is a legal remedy available to co-owners of property when they cannot agree as to ownership matters. Partition allows for the division of property; any co-owner can file for such an action. Accordingly, if a property can be physically divided the court will so instruct. However, if division would be impracticable (e.g. in the instance of a single family dwelling,) a court would order a "sale in lieu of partition" (i.e. instead of) and an equitable division of the proceeds be made among the co-owners. Before doing so however, the court would permit one co-owner to purchase the interest of the remaining co-owner(s) at fair market value.

At this point you should consult directly with a real estate attorney in your area.


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