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Selling a House When a Relationship Dispute Arises

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Relationship dispute overview when people disagree on how to sell their real property

The right to sell real estate differs depending on who owns the property and how it’s titled. In this day and age, many couples buy homes without getting married first. People of the same gender may purchase a home. People of different genders may even buy a home together. There’s no requirement that owners be husband and wife. Siblings may even own a home together.

Sometimes, people buy homes for investment purposes. Others may want to live in the home together. If the relationship works out, they may retitle the home. If the relationship fails, then one or more owners may leave.

When a relationship dispute of any type arises, homeowners often can’t agree on what to do with the home or real estate. The owners may agree on the need to sell but not the method of sale. One owner may not be paying his/her fair share which forces the other owner to take legal action

What remedies are available?

The owners can agree on their own how to sell the real property and how to divide the proceeds. Typically, the owners will either use a broker or try to sell the property themselves. Whatever method, they choose, the owners should have an experienced Florida lawyer review the agreement of sale. The attorney should also prepare for and attend the settlement. If the owners cannot agree, there are two types of remedies – partition by in kind and partition by sale.

The partition process

The Florida partition process for relationship disputes is governed by Chapter 64 of the Florida statutes. The partition action is brought in the county where the real estate is located.
The partition complaint should:

  • Set forth the names and residences of the owners and anyone who has any claim to ownership.
  • The quantity of interest that each coparcener/ co-owner has in the land
  • A description of the land

How the court initially reviews the partition action

First, the court will determine whether the claims of ownership are valid. If there is only one owner, then there is no need for a partition action. The determination of ownership usually begins with the deed to the property itself.

If there are grounds for partition, then the judge can order that a property partition take place.
The judge then appoints three people, known as commissioners, to oversee the partition process. The commissioners can be chosen by the parties to the relationship dispute.

Otherwise, the judge will appoint the commissioners. The commissioners can claim a fee for their reasonable services. They review the property value. They can hire a surveyor, The commissioners then make a recommendation to the judge. Generally, three commissioners are used so that there’s no chance of a tie. Three assures a decision.

Time to file exceptions

A boyfriend, girlfriend, or any owner has 10 days after the filing of the commissioner’s report to file exceptions. If there are exceptions, the judge will determine whether the exceptions have merit or not. If there are no filed exceptions or no valid exceptions, then the court will appoint someone to handle the sale of the property.

Partitions in kind

It may be possible to physically divide the property. Usually, this remedy is available if there is just land. Lands with buildings or homes normally are not capable of division. An exception might be if there were two buildings on the property that were similar in value and condition.

Partition by sale

Most times, a sale of the property takes place. The property is sold at a public auction to the highest bidder. Generally, this type of public sale does not generate the sales prices that a private sale would bring. Many times, only investors will make an offer for property that is in dispute. Still, the owners can, once a partition by sale is set, work to sell the property themselves. Even though there was an initial dispute, the boyfriend and girlfriend or others in the relationship dispute may realize it is best to work together.

Division of the proceeds

After the sale, the proceeds are distributed to reflect the ownership interest of each owner. If they each own half, then each person gets half the net proceeds. The court may make adjustments based on which owner pays the property taxes, home repairs, home maintenance, and other factors. The commissioners and any court costs are paid before any distribution takes place.

How Florida real estate lawyers can help

A good lawyer can help in several ways. He can explore the possibility of one person buying out the share of the other person in cash or with the help of a mortgage. The lawyer may encourage the client to reach an agreement with the other person in the relationship dispute to sell the property privately.
A Florida real estate lawyer can raise issues regarding ownership. He can argue that one persons’ interest in the real property is more than one-half. The lawyer can file exceptions if the commissioners recommendation is not accurate. The lawyer can help arrange service if one of the owners leaves the state or dies.

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