Ask Finder: How do I sell my share of a jointly owned property?

Richard Whitten 15 March 2019 NEWS

What happens if you co-own a property and want to part ways?

Hi guys,
I bought a property with my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend five years ago. We've paid off about 70% of the mortgage. Things have not worked out in the personal sense, and I'm keen to be rid of either the property or the property's co-owner. We both own an equal (50%) share of the property as tenants in common.
My question is, can I force him to sell his half of the property to me? Failing that, can I simply sell my share? Are there any complications I need to be aware of?
Thanks,
Tenant with nothing in common

Dear Tenant with nothing in common,

First up, I'm not a lawyer and this is general advice only. Depending on what you decide to do (and whether your ex agrees), you will almost certainly need personal legal advice.

However, there is a lot I can tell you. First of all, thanks for specifying your ownership agreement. Being a tenant in common, you are able to sell your share of the property. If you were a joint tenant (the other way of owning a property), this would not be so simple.

Here are a few of your options.

You could buy your boyfriend's share of the property. You'd need to find a lender who would let you refinance to the larger loan amount (and your ex needs to agree, obviously). Alternatively, you can sell your share of the property, either to your ex-boyfriend or to another interested party.

If your boyfriend can't or won't buy out your share of the property, and doesn't want you to sell, it gets a bit more complicated.

While the laws vary by state, you can often force the sale of a property. This requires a court application, and then the court will appoint a trustee to oversee the sale of the property.

Once the property is sold, the profits of the sale are split according to the ownership agreement, after stamp duty, agent and conveyancer's fees and court costs are deducted.

As you can probably imagine, using the court to force the sale of a property can be costly. And there may be some disagreement about who gets how much of the profits resulting from a sale.

Even with a 50/50 ownership split, one person might have paid a lot more towards the maintenance of the property, for example. It helps to have receipts for expenses in this case. Also, if your ex opposes your action in court, this will drag out the process even further and add to your costs.

In all circumstances it pays to be unemotional and focus on the costs. Resolving the property ownership amicably will almost certainly be more profitable for both of you.

And always seek qualified legal advice.

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