What Is an Action for Partition?

An action for partition is a lawsuit brought by a party (or parties) against another to force the division or sale of real estate. These actions can arise when two or more people co-own property and are in dispute over what to do with it. Sometimes co-owners of homes where one of the parties has moved out may not agree on what to do with the home. The person who has stayed in the house may want to keep it but doesn’t have the funds to buy out the other owner. Sometimes children inherit property from parents and one wants to sell while the other wants to keep the property. If these disagreements can’t be resolved between the parties themselves, it can lead to a partition lawsuit in the courts.

Partition actions can be brought over residential or commercial property or even undeveloped acreage. Partitioning essentially means dividing. However, it is often impractical or impossible to divide property, especially in the case of single family homes or business offices. While division into two or more parcels may be possible if the property being disputed is empty acreage, if the parties involved have relationships that are contentious, they may not care to own property situated next door to each other.

In many cases, an action for partition results in the sale of the home or other real estate rather than its physical division. The court will order property to be sold and the proceeds divided between parties according to each party’s interest in the property. This is called a sale in lieu of partition.

How Do You Fight a Partition Action?

Partition actions are often difficult to fight because property owners generally cannot be forced to keep and maintain property that they do not want. Depending on the situation, you may be able to challenge the other party’s right to the property or there may be a clause in the contract that says a partition action cannot be taken, but in most cases a partitioning or sale in lieu of partition is almost impossible to stop unless parties can come to agreement on their own terms.

When the action goes to the court, the judge will review the case and make a decision that they believe is most fair to all parties. Sometimes mediation between the parties can help to resolve disputes before courts order the property divided or sold. Mediation could potentially still result in a sale. However, if the sale is made on the open market rather than through a judicial auction or by court-appointed trustees, and you and the other owner or owners control the sale, it could result in a more satisfactory outcome for everyone. In other situations, the party who wants to keep the property may be able buy out the interests of the other party or parties.

How to Win a Partition Action

To win a partition action, you file your case for partitioning the property with the court. You should have a copy of the property deed and other documentation that proves your ownership and interest in the property. It is also very helpful to get legal counsel from a Maryland real estate attorney who is experienced in handling partition cases and understands Maryland law as it pertains to this area. As discussed before, typically in a partition action, it is difficult for the party it is brought against to stop it. But real estate and partition law still has its complexities and intricacies and there are possible defenses that could affect your winning the action.

Additionally, it is worth considering whether going to court is worth the conflict and emotional upheaval that may result, especially if the other party is a sibling or other family member. Of course, in some cases it may be the only option, but it is often worth trying to negotiate or mediate the conflict before filing an action for partition.

How Long Does a Partition Sale Take?

Resolving a partition action through the court can take several months. How long the actual sale of a property takes varies. If court-appointed commissioners handle the sale, the property will typically be sold through judicial auction. Properties sold at auction may sell for less than in the open market, so the sale could potentially sell faster. Properties handled by trustees can be sold either at auction or on the open real estate market, so market factors may influence how long a sale takes.

Can I Force a Sale on a Co-Owned Property?

You may be able to force a sale on a co-owned property in Maryland through a partition action. Of course, depending upon the co-owned property, such as if it is a piece of undeveloped land, the judge may decide it can actually be partitioned into lots or parcels. If that happens, you would have the option of selling your lot or parcel.

Whether forcing a sale is the best resolution when you are in conflict with the other owner or owners about what to do with the property depends upon your unique situation and whether you wish to maintain relationships with co-owners. A court action can cause rifts that last a lifetime. It can be helpful to speak with a real estate attorney who can potentially assist in negotiating a sale or other outcome between parties before trying to force a sale through the legal system. Resolving the issue with the help of a trained mediator may also be an option. If negotiation or mediation is not possible, you may have a strong chance of forcing a sale or partition of the property.

Contact an Experienced Frederick, MD, Real Estate Attorney

At Lusk Law, LLC, Rebekah Lusk and her legal team are “advocates for life’s obstacles and opportunities.” What this means is that we are focused on clearing obstacles for our clients in order to get them the best possible outcomes. When we represent you in a partition action, you can trust us to provide sound legal advice and resolute advocacy, no matter what side of the action you are on. Reach out to our firm today when you need the help of an experienced real estate attorney in Maryland. Call us at (443) 535-9715 to schedule a consultation.