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Real Estate Tug of War: What Happens When Not All the Heirs Want to Sell

Over the years I have had calls regarding selling a property that is owned by more than one heir which can present a problem when the heirs don't agree on the sale or are not all interested in selling the inherited property.  I had another call recently where one of three heirs remains a hold out and they have not been successful in their attempts to reason with him. Legal action could be the next step failing all reasonable attempts to reach a fair and equitable resolution. Years ago I saw a sign on Gurleyville Road in Mansfield and since it is a rare occurrence, I thought the subject of a partition sale may be worth revisiting.

A Forced Sale of Real Estate in this instance is an action taken in a civil court forcing the owners to sell the property at issue and divide the profits. A forced sale would be the result of what Connecticut courts refer to as a “partition action”.

These types of actions are often associated with disinterested parties who have been granted partial ownership of property through an inheritance,  have no real interest in owning the property, and are suddenly co-owners with another party (usually some relation) who has no interest or motivation to sell (although it should be noted that they can occur in connection with any property which has multiple owners where the owners do not all agree on whether or not to sell the property).

These “gifts” of ownership come with property taxes, insurance, and additional annual costs associated with upkeep of the property.  In addition to the costs and liabilities of non-owner occupied real estate, the value of that ownership can be dramatically affected by the declining values of a weak real estate market.

The forced sale is initiated by filing a legal action for partition of the property with the court. These partition actions are the legal right of any property owner where there is a disagreement among the owners concerning the disposition of a property, and are sometimes the only way to resolve issues between co-owners of property relating to the sale of that property. 

In speaking with local Attorney Jim Mark , who has handled partition actions in the past, he confirmed that this action is sometimes necessary, and, unfortunately, may be the only alternative available to owners who cannot otherwise agree to resolve their issues. These forced sales, like most legal actions, can easily become both time-consuming and expensive; and, if the dispute is unable to be resolved by the parties themselves, a court mandated public sale by committee (i.e., a person appointed by the court to sell the property) may be ordered.

These sales are often viewed by prospective buyers as “distressed” sales, where the property will be sold to the highest bidder at an auction, and at a price which may be substantially below current market value.

However, it should also be noted that mediation is often available as an alternative to a legal action that could and should be explored before a party brings suit. There are mediation companies which will provide this service, attorneys who will act in the capacity of a mediator if so requested by the owners, and attorneys that specialize in mediation practice should this course of action be preferred by the parties.

Home Selling Team is a resource for an attorney referral should the need for one arise.   If you want to find out more about a partition sale please contact us and we can help you find the right professionals to assist you.

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