It is not uncommon for one or more unmarried individuals to acquire real property together. Sometimes, the property is acquired through inheritance, or perhaps the parties purchased the property for investment purposes. Either way, what happens when the co-owners can no longer agree on how the property should be kept, maintained or managed? What rights do the co-owners (known as tenants in common) have and how can they preserve and protect their interest in the property from another co-owner whose interests or conduct are no longer beneficial?
Fortunately, the New York Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law provides a remedy to any person who co-owns property with another, and who wishes to sell or divide his or her interest. Traditionally, this remedy is known as a “partition” action.
In essence, there are two ways to effectuate a partition of real estate in New York. First, where the property is vacant, and or contains multiple lots or units, the property might be subject to a physical division. This is known as a partition in kind. More often than not, however, the property cannot be physically divided, such as where the property consists of a single lot with one improved structure. In such cases, the property must be divided by a partition sale. This means the property is sold and the proceeds of the sale are divided among the owners.
Either way, the parties should try to come to an agreement for a voluntary partition. In this instance, the parties agree to a division of the property, or to market and sell the property privately and then split the proceeds. Where an agreement and a voluntary partition is not possible, the parties must file a partition action to obtain a ruling from a court. Typically, the court will decide whether the property can be physically divided, or whether it should be sold. If the property cannot be physically partitioned, and must therefore be sold, the court will also determine how the proceeds will be distributed based upon the equities of each owner. Obviously, voluntary partitions require far less litigation and court time than a judicial partition, and are therefore much preferable to pursuing a ruling from the courts. Unfortunately, an amicable resolution is not always feasible and, in such instances, representation by an experienced attorney can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of the case.
If you have reached an impasse with a co-owner of real property and believe you may need to start a partition action, contact the litigation attorneys at Twomey Latham Shea Kelley Dubin & Quartararo, LLP. We understand the complex issues involved in New York partition actions and can represent your rights in the property and its value, while also protecting your interests from the other owner(s).