Q: My step-father and I own a house as tenants-in-common. The house has three liens: the first mortgage, a home-equity line for me, and a second mortgage my step-father took out to prop up his business.
The house has been for sale for several months and my step-father has refused several offers that would have resulted in a loss on the initial investment, but would have (at least) covered all the mortgages, costs, commissions and liens.
In the meantime, I moved out-of-state for a great job, so the house sits empty while I am still paying the mortgage and the expenses. Neither one of us wants to rent the house.
Question: What are my legal options towards encouraging him or forcing him to sell in a way that will both protect my credit, and keep me from the drain of paying the expenses every month?
A: You can sue your step-father, but you can also sell your share of the home since you own it as tenants in common. But, I have to tell you that it’s going to be a hard sale. Few people want to buy half of a home.
On the other hand, if you sue your stepfather, you run the risk of ruining your relationship – not that having a vacant (have you changed your homeowners’ insurance) house isn’t doing that trick pretty well. But lawsuits are also time-consuming and expensive. Where does your mom fit into this equation? Can she help broker some sort of agreement?
If you haven’t already, try working with a real estate agent to pull some comps (sales prices of neighborhood homes that are similar to yours that have already sold) that show your stepfather where prices actually are and how much money you’re losing every month you hang onto the property.
By gathering as much information you have about the housing market in your area, you may be able to convince your stepfather that you and he should both sell and soon.
If he refuses to sell, all of your choices will be tough. If you stop paying on the loans, which is one choice, you will ruin your credit. If you force the issue by going to court, it will be expensive and will likely cause family problems. So your only real choice is to try to work through the solution to convince your stepfather that this is the right time to take any offer and move on.
At the same time, you should find a real estate attorney who can work with you and try to help you figure out your options. Good luck.