Q: My sister and I jointly own a seasonal home on a lot in Connecticut. She resides in California. I live in Connecticut.
My mother deeded the property to us over 10 years ago and has been paying the expenses until this year. She can no longer afford to do so, and told us that we would have to assume the financial responsibility for the property.
I said I would come up with my half somehow. My sister said she would pay $500 per year, which would represent 1/2 the homeowner’s insurance and 1/2 the fall clean-up. If the bills came to more, I was to let her know.
Well, she hasn’t given me any money for the real estate taxes. Since she is a co-owner of the property, is she legally responsible for them? Can they be included in the settlement papers and deducted from her share when the cottage is sold?
I cannot afford to pay both her share and my share of the cottage’s expenses.
A: If you and your sister jointly own the property, then you and your sister would be jointly responsible for the expenses associated with the property, including property taxes.
If your sister can only afford $500 per year toward this property, and you cannot really afford to carry it on her behalf — even with the idea that you’ll get repaid at a future date — then it would appear that the time has come to sell this property and split the proceeds.
While it may be difficult to let go of something that has been in the family for so long, it appears that this property is causing undue stress to you and your sister. And that is precisely the opposite thing a vacation home is supposed to do.
Please talk to your sister about selling the property as soon as possible. (And before you ask, yes, she is responsible for paying half of the sales expenses.)