Q: My 22-year old niece wants to sell a properly she jointly owns with her brother, who is 26. They inherited this property as a result of their parents’ death. The property has gone through probate.
However, her brother doesn’t want to sell the property because he is living there rent-free, is unemployed and doesn’t have the money or credit to buy his sister’s half. In the meantime, he is not taking care of this property and the property has subsequently gone down in value.
What legal rights does my niece have in getting this property sold, regardless of her brother’s desire not to sell it or to vacant the premises? My niece wants to sell this property so that she will have enough money to pay off her college loans.
A: Short of starting a family war, you niece may have few options. One option is to go through the numbers and show her brother how he would be better off with the cash in hand from the sale of the home. The other is to sue her brother. That suit would be a partition suit.
A partition suit, as with any litigation, will cost time and money. Your niece will have to balance the costs of litigation with the benefits of forcing her brother to sell the home and the family problems that will likely result from the lawsuit. But in the litigation, she will be able to claim her share of the expenses for the home that her brother has failed to pay over the years.
Before attempting to litigate the matter, perhaps they can come to some agreement on selling the home. She can even give him an incentive to agree to sell, perhaps offering him extra money just to get the sale done.
She can also wait and hope that he gets a job that pays enough money for him to buy her share of the home or for him to decide to move elsewhere and agree to sell it.
Please talk to a real estate attorney for other options and an explanation of how she would proceed legally, if she chooses to go in that direction.
For additional information, see Real Estate Advice For Changing Title After Making Mortgage Payments or check out our topic page on lawsuits