It's Florida's legal remedy for joint property owners who can't agree on property management, or whether it should be sold.
Real estate has always been a relatively safe investment, which is why a group of friends, family members, or even business partners will join to make a purchase. Sometimes, joining with others is the only way to be able to afford a real estate purchase.
Multiple owners can sometimes be a problem. What do you do if there's a disagreement over how a property is managed, or whether it should be sold? In Florida, there's a special process for these problems. It's a statutory remedy called partition. Here's what you need to know.
Action for partition
Florida law allows real estate property to be owned by several people or entities. When those joint owners can't resolve their differences about management or disposition of the property, there's no choice but an action for partition. This is a request to the court to decide the best way to dispose of a jointly-owned property. This includes supervision of the process.
This court action sometimes is necessary when children inherit property from deceased parents and find themselves as joint owners. It can also happen when an unmarried couple buys property jointly and then split up. Business property owners can also experience this issue if a company fails and the joint owners of the property can't decide on a division of the assets.
Who can file?
An action for partition can be filed by any joint owner of a property. The only exception is if a property is owned by a husband and wife. The defendants in the action are the remaining property owners. The action of partition must be filed in the county in which the property is located. It doesn't matter where the joint owners reside.
What happens after the filing?
Once an action for partition is filed, the court decides whether to divide the property and give each joint owner a portion of it, or whether the property should be sold. In the latter case, the proceeds of the sale are divided amongst the owners.
Dividing the property logically works best when it's a piece of land. In this case, the court also will decide what percentage of the property each of the joint owners is entitled to. The court will also take into consideration whether one or more members should receive a larger percentage or a credit because they've made contributions such as paying property taxes.
If the court decides the best way to dispose of the property is to sell it, it will order the sale to proceed. If there are mortgages or liens on the property, proceeds from the sale will satisfy these obligations first. Anything remaining will be distributed to the joint owners.
Each joint owner becomes responsible for paying a share of the costs incurred for the action, which mostly occurs as attorney's fees.
When nothing else works
An action for partition should be considered as your last resort. If the court decides that the property is to be sold, you will likely not get the market value. A regular sale will almost always generate a higher price than a property sold at a courthouse auction.
Keep that in mind if you conclude you're unable to come to an agreement with the joint owners of your property.