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Can a Jointly Owned Property Be Sold by One Owner

Martinez Law Office, Inc  Feb. 7, 2024

Joint property ownership sounds just like its name; it refers to a situation where two or more individuals own a property together.  

Each joint owner holds an equal stake in the property, which comes with both rights and responsibilities. Because of the nature of this type of ownership, typically, jointly owned property cannot be sold by just one owner. All joint owners must reach a consensus on the sale, as each owner possesses an equal entitlement to the proceeds derived from the transaction. 

Now, it's worth noting that joint property ownership outside of marriage can often lead to disputes, even among related joint owners. Co-ownership, on the other hand, can involve entities of any type and may not have equal shares. 

Co-ownership vs. Joint Ownership

While co-ownership and joint ownership may sound similar, there are key differences between the two.  

Joint ownership is typically used to refer to property owned by married couples or romantic partners, where each partner has equal rights and responsibilities. On the other hand, co-ownership refers to any type of jointly owned property where ownership may not be equal among all parties involved. This could include business partners, friends, or family members. 

Whichever type of joint ownership is involved, it's important to have a clear understanding of the rights and responsibilities of each owner. In case of any disputes or confusion, seeking legal advice from an experienced lawyer can help resolve the issue fairly and efficiently. 

Other Common Types of Joint Property Disputes

Joint property disputes are a frequent occurrence that we navigate with our clients, often sparked by disagreements over how the property should be managed, divided, or disposed of.  

It's crucial to understand that such disputes can stem from a multitude of scenarios, such as one owner desiring to sell while another wishes to keep the property, or conflicts regarding the contribution to property expenses and maintenance. 

Have you considered what happens if one party invests more in the property's upkeep or renovation? How is that contribution accounted for upon sale? Or, what transpires when an owner passes away – does their share seamlessly transfer to the surviving owners, or does it become part of a complex estate issue? These questions are not simply hypothetical; they're VERY REAL challenges you might face. 

We've represented clients in disputes involving rental income distribution, where the presiding question is, who has the right to the income when ownership stakes are equal, but investment is not? We've also seen situations where external factors, such as a declining real estate market, trigger debates between co-owners regarding the appropriate time to sell. 

Navigating these disputes requires an adept understanding of the law, a strategic approach to negotiation, and often, a judicious use of conflict resolution skills or litigation.  

In these moments, you want an advocate who knows the intricacies of property law and will defend your interests pre-emptively. Because when it comes to joint property disputes, it's not just about knowing your rights, but also about protecting your investment and future. Remember, you're not alone in these situations, and skilled legal support can be the decisive factor between a resolved dispute and a protracted legal battle. 

Legal Rights of Joint Property Owners

There are several important rights that come with joint property ownership.  

One of these is the right of survivorship: Any joint owner can designate a beneficiary to inherit their interest in the property upon their death.  

Another is the right to possession: Each joint owner has the right to occupy or use every part of the property, with no right to exclude other joint owners unless agreed upon in advance.  

Other rights include an equal share of income, equal division of expenses and property improvements, and an equal share of proceeds if the property is sold. 

Resolving Joint Property Ownership Disputes

So, what can be done if disputes arise? Many joint property disputes can be resolved by sitting down with an attorney acting as a mediator. This professional can help joint owners settle issues such as right to possession, expense sharing, or profit sharing. Agreements reached through mediation can then be formalized in a joint property ownership agreement, which is legally binding and helps prevent future disputes. 

In some cases, however, it may be necessary to sell or divide the property. When this happens, it's crucial to seek the assistance of an experienced California real estate attorney to ensure a fair resolution. If joint owners cannot agree on selling or dividing the property, a partition action can be filed with the courts. In such situations, having legal representation can help avoid unfavorable outcomes. 

If you have any further questions or need assistance with a joint property ownership dispute, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at the Martinez Law Office, Inc. I'm here to help. 

Get Trusted Legal Support

Joint property ownership in California comes with both rights and responsibilities. While disputes are common, many can be resolved through mediation and the creation of a joint property ownership agreement.  

However, in some cases, selling or dividing the property may be necessary. Always remember, it's important to seek the guidance of an experienced real estate attorney to protect your financial interests and ensure a fair resolution.  

Call me at Martinez Law Office, Inc. if you’re in or near Santa Ana, California. I represent clients throughout Southern California including Orange County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County.