Many people own property jointly with one another person or persons, either voluntarily or not. Married couples (or unmarried couples for that matter), business owners, and landlord partnerships purchase property jointly all the time, and, in many cases, people may find themselves as a joint owner of property through an inheritance or inter vivos gift of property, such as from a parent to his or her children. Whether the co-owners decided to become property owners together or suddenly found themselves co-owners with a person that they might not even speak to, much less manage property with, there is always the potential for a joint property dispute. At Wagenseller Law Firm, we represent joint property owners in resolving joint property disputes as efficiently as possible, but are prepared to go to trial if need be to win a favorable outcome in a joint property dispute.
Joint Property Ownership in California
In California, co-owners of property will either own the property as a tenancy in common or as a joint tenancy. If you and the other owner did not specifically purchase or receive the property as a joint tenancy, then you most likely have a tenancy in common. The primary difference between these two is that, when a person dies in a joint tenancy, the other owner or owners will automatically receive that person’s interest in the land regardless of what a will or other instrument might say, while, in a tenancy in common, the owner’s interest would pass to that person’s beneficiaries, making the beneficiary the new co-owner.
With both a tenancy in common and a joint tenancy, each owner has a right to fully occupy and use the entirety of the jointly held property (unless there is a valid co-ownership agreement in place saying otherwise) which can lead to any number of disputes when there are conflicting goals and desired uses for the land, or even where the owners simply cannot get along.
Common Types of Joint Property Disputes
Because every joint property dispute involves unique individuals and the unique dynamic between them, every joint property dispute is different, but there are some common type of joint property disputes that tend to arise:
- Disagreements over how to use the property (e.g. whether to drill for oil, rent out the land, build a structure, etc.)
- Disagreements over profits made from the land (e.g. a dispute over how much each party should receive in rents earned from use of the land)
- Disagreements over expenses (e.g. taxes) and improvements made on the land, and whether one owner should pay the other
- Activities carried out by one owner that annoy, disturb, or otherwise harm the other owner’s interest in the land
- A simple desire to avoid sharing ownership with the other party (e.g. personal differences unrelated to the land itself)
Resolving Joint Property Disputes
Whenever possible, it is often best for the co-owners to work out a mutually agreeable plan to resolve their disputes, which might include one owner selling his or her interest to the other, both parties selling the land and splitting the profits, one owner ceasing an activity or agreeing to carry out a duty, and so on. At Wagenseller Law Firm, we can work with co-owner or co-owners to negotiate a workable agreement without having to go to court.
But in cases where no middle ground can be reached, we can also go to court to resolve the matter. The judge may rule that one or both owners are required to take specific actions based on the law, or may order that the land be sold and the profits be divided between the parties. When this occurs, further issues may arise as to the valuation of the land and payments owed between the parties for past rents, expenses, and improvements. As experienced real estate litigators, we will work to make sure you are treated fairly and justly in resolving your joint property dispute.
Work With an Experienced Los Angeles Joint Property Dispute Attorney
Attorney Laine T. Wagenseller of Wagenseller Law Firm has published numerous articles on real estate law and works with individuals and businesses across Southern California in resolving real estate matters, including joint property disputes. Contact Wagenseller Law Firm today to schedule a consultation in order to evaluate your dispute and begin working towards a positive resolution.