Litigation Lawyer in Carteret and Craven Counties concerning Real Property Co-Ownership

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Tenancy in Common in Real Property

Many times, we have clients come in with questions about what to do with real property they own with another person or persons.  Co-ownership of property arises in a number of different contexts, but it often occurs when someone has passed away and left real property to his or her heirs or beneficiaries (typically the children) in equal shares.  The heirs or beneficiaries then own the property as “tenants-in-common.”  Under “tenants-in-common” ownership, each co-owner owns their respective percentage interest in the whole of the property. 

Because tenants-in-common own an interest in the whole of the property, any one of them may occupy and use the property as he or she sees fit.  This includes taking possession for the purposes of renting the property to a third party.  The general rule is that one co-tenant does not owe the other co-tenant any rent for doing so.  However, in situations in which one co-tenant occupies and uses the property to total exclusion of the other owners, then one of the other owners may have the right to maintain a claim for “ouster.”  In an action for ouster, a co-tenant can recover his or her percentage of the reasonable rental value of the property, corresponding to the co-tenant’s percentage interest in the property.

As for expenses, each co-tenant generally bears the responsibility of contributing to the expenses relative to the property, such as maintenance costs, property taxes, insurance, utilities, and any mortgage on the property.  These expenses are paid pro rata, according to the owner’s percentage interest in the property.  One major exception is that should one co-tenant seek to improve the property, the other co-tenants are not obligated whatsoever to participate in the expense of doing so.

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