Property is deeded to four family members. Only one of the members pays the property taxes directly to the town, while asking the other members for personal reimbursement.
Real Estate Attorney
The question is whether the other co-owners are contributing their share of expenses for the upkeep of the property and taxes. Your facts don't specify this. If one co-owner is shouldering all of the burden and expense, they may try to file an action to quiet title on the grounds of economic waste on the part of the other co-owners or file a petition to partition the property either actually dividing up the property amongs the co-owners so that each holds a separate part of it (known as partition on the ground) or partition the property by sale with each co-owner taking a share in the proceeds after accounting for expenses of the partition, which can be very costly since it is a process with court oversight and a partition commissioner must be paid from the sale proceeds to oversee the process. Partition should be avoided if at all possible because of the expense involved.
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That is not enough.
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Real Estate Attorney
Thank you for your question.
You have presented a very common problem of co-ownership. When several different people come to own property together, problems arise when they have differing levels of commitment to the property, differing standards of upkeep, differing views on selling, differing views on how the property should be used, and disparate financial ability to maintain the property.
The answer to your question is no. You cannot strip someone of their ownership of real estate because they will not pay their fair share.
You do have some options. You can, for example, buy out the ownership interest of a person who is not pulling their fair weight. You can all agree to sell the property, and then use the proceeds to purchase your own place - either alone or with some of the other owners. You can also offer your ownership interest to the others.
The truth is that people that own property together must cooperate and work together in a businesslike fashion for the good of the property. Unless otherwise agreed, all co-owners are equally responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the property, and all co-owners are equally entitled to the use and enjoyment of the property - or rental income - whichever the case may be. If you cannot do this with a person or group of people, you should not own property together.
Our office represents homeowners in disputes like this one, both in negotiating or mediating disputes, and in representing various homeowners who have found themselves forced into court because the parties are simply unable or unwilling to agree on a way forward.
Christopher Vaughn-Martel is a Massachusetts lawyer with the firm of Vaughn-Martel Law in Boston, Massachusetts. All answers are based on Massachusetts law and the limited facts presented by the questioner. All answers are provided to the general public for educational purposes only and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question. To schedule a consultation with a lawyer, and obtain advice and review of your specific legal issue, please call us today at 617-357-4898 or visit us at www.vaughnmartel.com.