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My brother and I own a two family house. He lives in one of the apartments. His apartment is unhealthy to the whole house.

Fall River, MA |

The tenants apartment is filled with an awful smell . There is also a leaky sewage pipe from his apartment. What can I do?

Attorney Answers 3


Call health dept.

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If you and your brother are of the same mind, you should evict the tenants. If you and your brother are no longer getting along as co-owners, it may be time for one of you to sell your interest to the other.

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

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If you call the local Board of Health, you are likely opening yourself up to liability since you co-own the building, not just an apartment and are jointly resposible for the whole. If you are unable to work it out with your brother by asking him to remedy the situation with "his" tenant, it may be time for you to part ways. If a sale of the property or a buy out of either share is not possible or likely to be agreed upon, you could file a petition for partition to sever the joint ownership. Partition can literally mean dividing up the property so each you has a separate portion of it. But that sounds unlikely where you have what sounds like only a house and not a vast expanse of land. In your case, a partition by sale may be warranted where a court and a partition commission oversees the process, which is very costly and a sale, either private or by auction, is held and the proceeds, after the cost of the partition are allocated to the parties. My best advice is for you to try to work it out with your brother, even threaten calling the Board of Health, which, if you do, will require you to jointly remedy the problem and could set the tenant up with some major defenses if you ever try to evict them since there will be a public record of the unsanitary condition of the property. If you can't, then an petition for partition may be the route to go. One other alternative is to bring an action for waste against our brother since he is permitting the property to be wasted. You might be able to get a court action to stop him from allowing the conditions to continue.

This "answer" is for information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship.

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