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If you own half a house and your sibling owns the other half, what are my rights if I live in the house?

Boston, MA |

I lived with mom. she died I month ago and I paid all bills( taxes etc..) Other half owner told me he cannot pay any bills for lack of no money Why would I be made to sell/buy his half when he never lived/paid bills or made any repairs to the house? He has never asked for keys to the house.He said he can make me pay rent. Do I have to pay rent on the house I own half of ? How much of the taxes/property insurance can I sue him for if he never paid any? Does paying rent make me a tenant? If so, can I force the other half owner to make repairs as I would be just a tenant? If I hire someone to make repairs to the house as half owner can I make him split the cost or should I only make repairs for the parts of the house that I use Kitchen, bathroom...?

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Each Co-owner is responsible for one-half of the expenses and is entitled to one-half of the income regardless of whether or not they live in the house. Your brother is entitled to be paid one-half of the fair market rent, but he is also responsible for one-half of the expenses. It sounds like one of you needs to get bought out because you are not going to be able to manage this situation cooperatively. If you cannot complete the buy-out amicably, then either person can go to court to force the sale.


  2. Sometimes life isn't fair. Your brother has rights because someone thought it would be a good idea for the two of you to own the house. If you cannot agree on how the expenses will be handled, then it probably will make the most sense for you and your brother to sell the house and move on with your lives if you cannot afford to buy him out.

    I strongly suggest you talk with a local real estate attorney concerning your rights and options and a mortgage officer concerning whether you can finance a buy-out.

    E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question.


  3. Without researching, my recollection is that a joint owner can use the property without paying rent. Both would be liable for expenses. If one rented to a third party, one would probably have to share the net rent after expenses with the co-owner.

    Practically, however, the issue is how to "cash out." If he is a half owner, he or she is entitled to either use the house or be bought out if they don't want to use the house. They can, in principle, press the issue with a petition to partition (which would likely result in the sale of the house, either to you or to a third party.)

    You would be entitled to contribution for the expenses of maintaining the house, including taxes, but if he has no money, the practical effect is that this gets deducted from what he is owed.

    You would be wise to speak with an attorney, to help figure out the best way out of the situation for you (including how to arrange to end up with undivided ownership of the house.)


  4. As joint owners, you are generally both equally responsible for all expenses, upkeep, and maintenance. You are both equally entitled to the use and enjoyment of the property, meaning that you may not exclude him from any part of the common property.

    If my memory serves me, no joint owner can be made to pay rent to the other joint owner absent an agreement between the parties or an ouster.

    If you are going to continue to own this property together with your sibling, I strongly suggest that both of you obtain counsel and iron out a property ownership agreement to govern the relationship.

    Christopher Vaughn-Martel is a Massachusetts lawyer with the firm of Vaughn-Martel Law in Boston, Massachusetts. All answers are based on generalized 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. If you would like an attorney with Vaughn-Martel Law to review your specific situation and provide you with legal options or information specific to you, you may schedule a telephone or office by calling 617-357-4898 or visiting us at www.vaughnmartel.com. Our office charges $100.00 for a consultation, and applies your consultation fee to your first bill if the Firm is hired to perform further work.

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