Joint Ownership of Real Estate in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Joint Ownership Lawyers

Real Estate Attorney Jeffrey Williams creates joint ownership with rights of survivorship or shared ownership agreements which seek to address and avoid potential disputes, and litigates partition actions for liquidation or transfer of jointly held properties.

Joint Tenancy in Los Angeles

Joint Tenancy is a type of ownership in California where two or more people share an interest in real or personal property – often with a right of survivorship. Home buyers in Los Angeles, or anywhere in Southern California are often advised to hold the property in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship so that should one of them die, the other receives the property. Similarly, married couples often take title to their home as joint tenants and should one of them die, the surviving spouse gets full title to the property.

There are many situations where joint tenancy can be the correct way to hold title. Just be sure that before you decide how to take title that you run your unique circumstances by a competent Real Estate lawyer so that you can make an informed decision.

Potential Benefits of Joint Tenancy

One benefit to joint tenancy is the avoidance of probate. Since title “automatically” transfers to the surviving joint tenant, probate becomes unnecessary.

Potential Pitfalls of Joint Tenancy

Joint Tenancy in California has some potential problems associated with it. For instance:

Problems with Creditors – Creditors of a joint tenancy owner can come after the entire property to satisfy the debts of just one of the joint owners which means the other joint owner can lose his interest in the property even when he is not responsible for the credit problem. If a joint owner has a judgment rendered against him, the creditor can seek to satisfy the judgment by forcing a sale of the property.

Loss of Control – When you own property with other joint tenants, you give up unilateral control over the property. You no longer have the right to act alone with regard to selling, making improvements or refinancing the property without the consent and cooperation of the other joint owners.

Partition Actions When Joint Owners Cannot Agree

What if Joint Tenants (Joint Owners) cannot agree on how to share the ownership responsibilities of a piece of real estate? No matter if the property is a condo, a single family home, a commercial property or vacant land, what if the co-owners simply cannot agree on how to share the mortgage payment, payment of taxes, costs of maintenance, or need for improvements to the property? That’s a potentially BIG problem! If that were not bad enough, these type of real estate disputes are often further hampered because the Joint Owners cannot even agree on selling the property if that would be the best solution to resolve their disputes. In cases where co-owners cannot work out a co-owner resolution on their own, one or more may need to resort to mediation, arbitration or to the courts for a solution.

California provides an equitable remedy known as partition. The term “partition” means the division of property among co-owners. Real property held by co-owners as a tenancy in common or a joint tenancy (but not by spouses as tenants) may be partitioned. Any co-owner can seek a partition, provided he/she has not previously waived their right to do so.

While sometimes large parcels of vacant land can be divided to the co-owners, a typical improvement like a house or commercial building cannot be divided. More often than not, the Court will order a sale of the property and an equitable division of the proceeds which is then distributed among the co-owners. The Court may direct the sale of property if it appears that a partition of the property cannot be made without great prejudice to the owners, or persons interested in the property. The Court may also order a partition which would permit one co-owner to purchase the interest(s) of the remaining co-owner(s) in lieu of a physical division of the property or a court-order sale.

It is not unusual for a party to a partition action to seek an adjustment by the Court of sale proceeds to take into account any taxes paid by a particular co-owner in excess of another owner’s fair share, or repairs or other improvements made by a co-owner which increased the value of the property. A co-owner may also want an adjustment for the use of the premises by another owner or by another owner’s failure to properly maintain the property.

In certain instances, frequently with commercial property, the Court may decide to appoint a receiver to oversee the property and collect rents and other income and pay expenses during the course of the litigation.

Co-owners should recognize that anytime it is necessary to resort to the courts significant additional expenses are incurred, whether it is for attorneys to properly represent co-owners’ interests or for commissioners to propose a division of the land or receivers to oversee the property and rent or lease collections. It is always worthwhile to attempt to work out an amicable solution among the co-owners rather than allow the situation to end up in court. However, if that is not possible, there remains a partition action with the Court.

Consult with a Los Angeles Real Estate Litigation Attorney

By consulting with Los Angeles Real Estate Attorney Jeffrey Williams early on in a real estate dispute, we can often help you resolve the matter quickly and efficiently, without the stress, and expense of protracted litigation. That said, we will always be prepared to defend your interests in the courts when necessary. Your best interests are our priority at all times. Our primary goal is to provide you the highest level of legal services available.

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