A lot of people own property with another. Often one owner desires to be free of the others but the others want to keep the property. In that situation, the owner can sue for Partition. Similar to a divorce, a Judge will terminate their relationship and equitably divide the property. Partitions are allowed for most ways people own property together; an exception is if the property is owned by a land trust.
To start a Partition lawsuit, one must sue all parties who have an interest in the property. One files suit in the county where the property is located. Once the court obtains jurisdiction over everyone, then the judge will appoint a commissioner who will investigate the property.
The commission is the eyes and ears of the judge. First the commission will see whether the property can be divided fairly between the owners. This is common for farm land but impossible for a single family home. For property unable to be divided, the commissioner will retain an appraiser. The appraiser will determine the fair market value of the property. If the parties cannot settle, then it will be placed for a public sheriff sale. The sale will be advertised. At this sale the sheriff will auction the house to the highest bidder. The opening bid is 2/3 of the appraised value of the property.
From the sales proceeds, the Court will deduct the petitioner’s attorney’s fees. This is because the partition benefits everyone involved and therefore everyone must pay for it.
During the partition lawsuit, the Court will ensure that both parties benefited from and contributed fairly to the property. If one of the owners lived in the property and the other one did not, then the law will require the owner who lived there pay rent to the others. The same principle applies if one person paid all the bills and repaired the property and the other did nothing. In this situation, the court will require the non-paying person to contribute funds to the person who paid the bills.
I handled numerous partition lawsuits. Some involve siblings inheriting property from their parents. Others partnerships that went bad. Others involved partners that no longer want to work together. Still others involve children and their step mother. In all situations the law is applied the same way: to equally divide the property between the owners.