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Can an owner be forced out of a house by a co-owner?

Silver Spring, MD |

Two people are divorced but still co-own a house -- both on title and mortgage. One has lived in it for many years but the time agreed upon (in the divorce decree) to sell the house and split the proceeds has finally come. They agree to put it on the market right away "as-is" and so they do.

The non-occupant co-owner (NOCO) feels like it will sell for much more if the occupant co-owner (OCO) vacates and clears the house out. The NOCO might be right about that, so, the NOCO seeks to force the OCO to vacate.

The OCO really needs the many months, that it will probably take to sell the house, to get stuff out - BIG HOUSE - LOTS OF STUFF - TONS OF WORK - BUT FULL TIME JOB. Plus also paying for old mortgage + new rent is just not possible.

NOCO cannot force OCO to vacate, can NOCO?

Attorney Answers 2

  1. There are two parts to the answer to your question: one under real estate law and one under divorce law.

    Generally, one of two co-owners can force the sale of co-owned property through the process called "sale in lieu of partition." The terms of that sale would be set by a judge, and each party would be able to argue their respective points to the judge about whether or not the occupant should be forced to move out.

    However, if in the divorce decree the judge granted one of the parties the "use and possession" of the property, then that decision has already been made. The party granted the use and possession of the property can stay, unless one of the parties go back in front of the Court and explains why the order should be modified. The other party has the right to object, of course.

    Either way, the Court will have to be involved to force the occupier out.

  2. Tenants in common, meaning people that own a property together, are each entitled to occupancy. You need to use the court system to change this.

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