Imagine you and a partner purchase a rental property in the hopes of generating additional income. Or perhaps you jointly inherit some property. You own the property as tenants in common, meaning that you each own a ½ interest. You’re each responsible for ½ the property taxes and expenses, as well as ½ of any rental income.
A few years later, you decide you want out. The income (when there is any) doesn’t seem worth the headache, and in some years, you even wind up paying more than your share of the expenses because your partner can’t seem to keep a steady day job. The two of you don’t get along anymore and you really just want out. What can you do?
The law in Tennessee does not require you to continue owning property jointly with another person if you don’t want to. If you can’t reach agreement with your partner about an exit plan, then you can file what is referred to as a partition lawsuit. There are two ways a Court can partition, and it depends on the particular facts of any given case. You will likely need an attorney to help you navigate the particular circumstances of your case.
Partition “in kind”
If a Court partitions a piece of land “in kind,” it means the property will be physically divided among the co-owners – almost quite literally splitting the baby. An example would be if two people owned a two acre tract of raw land and the Court simply divided it in half, giving each person one of the two acres.
Partition “by sale”
A partition “by sale” is exactly what it sounds like. The Court will order a sale of the property and then distribute the money proceeds to the parties. The Tennessee Code provides that a party is entitled to a partition by sale if either (1) the property is situated such that it can’t be divided, or (2) when it would be manifestly to the advantage of the parties for the property to be sold instead of divided. For example, a Court can’t split a house and give each person half, so it would instead order the house to be sold.
Expenses and Distribution of Income
What if you paid more than your share of expenses prior to filing the lawsuit, or what if you don’t think the rental income was distributed properly? In a partition lawsuit, you can ask the Court to award you that money in addition to what you are owed for your ownership interest. The key to recovering this additional money is proving the amount you are owed. Hopefully, you have kept, or can obtain, records concerning your income and expenses associated with the property. In some cases, you might be able to obtain financial records during the partition lawsuit that may help prove what you are owed.
Settlement or Partition Lawsuit? We can help.
If you currently own a piece of property with another person and you’ve decided you no longer want to continue in the joint ownership, we can help you fashion a solution. Filing a lawsuit should not be your first step in any dispute, but a partition action is an available legal tool if an agreement can’t be reached. We are experienced at helping our clients negotiate resolutions without the necessity of filing a lawsuit; however, because we are trial attorneys, we know our way around the courthouse and are prepared to file and handle a partition action on your behalf, if necessary. Please call us today at 901-372-5003 if we can help you.