My Best Friend and I Bought a Home Together, Now She’s Trying to Force Me Out

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“My best friend and I purchased a house four years ago as tenants-in-common.  We each put equal down payments, pay half of the mortgage, taxes and insurance (50/50).  I have had the exclusive use to live in the home with my son.  I have been and am solely responsible for all upkeep, repairs and upgrades.  My partner (no longer friend) now demands that I pay more money (to cover my exclusive use) or move out and rent the property for a loss.  This is my home and the agreement with her was that it was the place I was to raise my son until he was out of school.  He is now only 5! So far, we are current on our mortgage, although she has threatened to stop paying her half. I want to sell the property, take a loss and move on and away from this unreasonable person.  She does not want to sell as she will lose (and I will lose) our down payments.   Staying in business with her in any way scares me as she has changed all terms of our original agreement on a moments notice and terminated our friendship with the precedent to that happening.  I think it best to just get out of this total mess as the housing market is still going down and will not improve any time soon in our area.

She has now threatened me with a May 15, 2012, eviction date and has told me she will be renting the house on June 1. Can she force me out? Can she rent the property without my permission? I am devastated by the loss of my home and friendship.  This is such a sad horrible situation.”

First of all, I’m so sorry you are in this difficult situation.  This illustrates why one should always, always, always have a WRITTEN co-ownership agreement whenever buying property with someone else.

Absent something in writing showing what your agreement was, you have to rely on a combination of 1) whatever agreement you still have regarding what your oral agreement was, 2) applicable law, and 3) your past practices regarding the property.

Unfortunately, the details of these factors mean that the answer to most of your questions is “it depends.”  For example, a co-owner can generally use the property to the extent that they are not “ousting” the other co-owner.  You could certainly argue that your agreement, as evidenced by your past practice, was that your exclusive use of the property was permissive, and therefore not an ouster.  But obviously, your ex-friend could argue otherwise, and the ultimate decision would be dependent on the facts.

One major thing in your favor, however, is that you have the right, as a co-owner, to demand partition of the property.  This is essentially what you are looking for: a legal means of requiring that the property be sold and the proceeds divided.  Whether or not you actually go through the legal process of partition, the fact that you can gives you significant bargaining leverage.

Therefore, I would advise you to meet with a local real estate attorney immediately-do not wait for the attempted eviction, as getting your legal process started first may be helpful, there-to get the process started of at least negotiating in the light of a possible partition.