Court offers some help if partner balks at sale


October 09, 1994|By Michael Gisriel

Q: I own a property with my brother and my sister. My sister and I want to sell but my brother wants to keep the house and rent it out. What are our options? Can we go to court and force a sale?

R. Stever, Timonium

A: The easiest thing to do would be to buy out your brother's individual ownership interest or have your brother buy out you and your sister's ownership interest in the house.

If the house has equity in it, either side could probably arrange to refinance the existing mortgage and use the extra cash to purchase the other's ownership interest. An independent appraiser or the lender's appraisal could be used to determine the house's current market value and the value of the individual ownership interests.

Another alternative would be for the three of you to jointly list the property for sale with a real estate agent and then divide the proceeds after settlement, or you could contract with an auctioneer and have the house auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Finally, if you can't reach an amicable arrangement with your brother, then you could file a petition in circuit court and ask a judge to order a "partition sale."

Under this procedure, the property would be sold under court order and the proceeds would be divided between the parties.

Another judicial remedy could be for you to petition the circuit court for a trustee to be appointed by a judge to take control of the house. The house could then be sold by the trustee either through a real estate agent or by auction. The trustee would then file a re- port to the court detailing the expenses of the sale and the proceeds, which would then be distributed according to court order.

The obvious problem with filing either the partition petition or the trustee petition with the court is that fairly large legal fees and court costs would be involved, probably in the $2,500 to $5,000 range.

Therefore, you should try to exhaust all your amicable remedies with your brother first.

If the voluntary approach fails, however, then consult with a lawyer about filing either the partition or trustee lawsuits.

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