Q: I’ve been trying to sell my home and I’ve encountered a problem. I looked everywhere and can’t find information on this.
I own a four-family house in New York City. The problem is that I only own 50 percent of the property and my neighbor owns the other 50 percent.
Since I wanted to move on with my life, I asked my neighbor if she wanted to sell the house. Unfortunately, she doesn’t want to sell. Is there any way I can sell only my share of the house?
A: You say that you own a four-family house. Since you really own only half of a four-family property, the question is, how did you come to acquire your share?
Did your neighbor and your parents purchase the property and you inherited your parents’ share? Or, if you purchased this property, did you know that you were only purchasing a 50 percent share?
If you knew you only owned half of a property, you shouldn’t be surprised now that you can’t sell the entire property. If you and your neighbor both bought the home at the same time and bought it together, did you get financing for the purchase? If you did, did you both sign for the loan?
You need to get the papers from the purchase of the property together to see what it is that you bought. Are there other documents that you and your neighbor signed that govern your relationship? Is your building a cooperative building or do you have some sort of partnership agreement for the co-ownership of the building?
Have you and your neighbor shared in the expenses of the building and in the income generated from the other units that presumably have been rented in the four-family house?
Once you have an understanding for your ownership in the property, you can know how to proceed. If you own a part of a cooperative building, you should be able to sell your interest in the cooperative. If you own a 50 percent interest in the property with your neighbor and you both have signed for the debt on the property, you will have a more complicated time selling your share of the property since your neighbor will have to refinance.
If your neighbor is unwilling to purchase your share of the property, and she isn’t willing to sell her share, one of your options would be to sue your neighbor to force the sale of the property or to find someone that would be willing to buy your share alone.
But if you have a mortgage or other debt on the property and have signed your name to that debt, selling your share won’t get your name of the debt and you will continue to be responsible for the debt unless the debt is paid off or you can get the lender to release you and take the new buyer as the new borrower.
Please make an appointment with a qualified real estate attorney who can help you go through your documents and consider all of your options.
Oct. 12, 2007.