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Breaking Up is Hard to Do – Partitioning Property

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Here’s a scenario: You find yourself dealing with a situation where one member of an unmarried couple wants to sell their jointly owned home, but the other opposes the idea. A secondary scenario: The property was inherited by multiple children, and one of them is uncooperative or unresponsive to your requests for listing the property. These are just two of many different issues that can arise with joint owners, and one (or more) is unwilling to sell the home.

So what can you do?

Practically speaking, be persistent with the uncooperative/unresponsive owner. It’s amazing how often the “squeaky wheel gets the grease.” If you make that person aware of what they will receive and explain that their role involves only executing a few documents, you might successfully persuade that owner to come around and sign off on the matter.

If that is still a non-starter because they think the property is worth more than it is, or they are refusing to move out or be willing to show the property, then the motivated owner does have an alternative – file a partition action with the Court and force the uncooperative owner to sell.

How does a partition action work?

  • First, any co-owner (with a few rare exceptions) can petition the Court to force the sale of a piece of property. 
  • Second, the process can be long and expensive, depending upon whether the uncooperative party is going to put up a fight or going to try to avoid participation. 
  • Third, it’s important to grasp that partition remains a court proceeding that demands adherence to specific procedures, including serving all parties, providing opportunities for their participation, likely engaging in mediation, conducting discovery, and more – all of these steps precede reaching a final hearing.

Setting up realistic expectations of the cooperative owner is an important initial step once you’ve identified that you have a co-owner who has gone missing, is unresponsive, or is refusing to work with the other owners.

What is the ultimate goal of a partition action?

It is simply having a court step in to force the sale of a piece of real property when one or more of the owners are refusing to agree to do so. Fortunately, the Court has several options for getting this accomplished, which include using a real estate broker to act as a special magistrate to be the one with full authority to list, sell, and close on the sale of the real property.

Bottom line, while initiating a partition action may not be the preferred method for selling a piece of real property, it might become the sole option to list the property and facilitate its sale. If you have questions or concerns about dealing with an uncooperative/unresponsive co-owner or partition actions, please seek the advice of a qualified, licensed Florida attorney.

Mark C. Mann, Esq.

Mark C. Mann, Esq.

Mark focuses his practice on representing individuals in civil litigation including personal injury and wrongful deaths, real estate disputes, contract disputes, contested probate matters, and family law cases.

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