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What to know about partition actions

Owning a home in New York can be a lucrative investment. And because property ownership can be at such a premium, not every person who owns real estate in New York is the sole owner of the property.

There are many people who purchase property with a friend or partner, or they -- along with others -- inherit it after someone passes away. In situations like these involving co-owners, problems can arise when one or more owners wish to terminate the arrangement. This can happen through a partition action.

What is a partition action?

A partition action is a lawsuit filed by a co-owner of a property (such as a joint tenant or tenant in common) when parties cannot agree on what to do with the property they own together. 

Often, these actions become necessary when family members cannot agree on what to do with a home or when unmarried couples who purchased a home together split up. Unless parties decide together to sell or one person agrees to buy the other one out, filing a partition action can be necessary.

After filing a partition action, one of two events will occur: The courts can either order parties to divide the property among the owners or sell it.

  • Dividing property - The courts could order the physical parting of property into distinct parcels equal to the ownership of each party. For instance, the courts may split a single undeveloped lot owned by multiple parties in half and give one side to each owner. Parties retain ownership of the property but no longer own it together.
  • Partition by sale - If physically dividing the property is unwise or impractical, the courts can order partition by sale. Under these circumstances, parties will sell the property on their own or at an auction. Owners will then split the proceeds in a manner matching their ownership percentage.

Understanding your options

Whether you hope to reach an agreement outside of court or you must pursue a partition action in court, know that there is property and money on the line. As such, having legal guidance as you seek a resolution to a partition action will be important. 

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