Costs of labor and materials on jointly owned house by one owner living there to improve the house for sale

My daughter, who is 50/50 co-owner of house, moved me out 2 years ago. She promised they would be selling the house and moving to CO within 6 months. Instead, she and her husband have lived there until the present time, making over $12,000 in improvements. Now she is willing to put the house on the market but wants me to pay for the entire $12,000. I offered to pay her 1/2. Since I didn’t agree to any of the repairs made, I don’t feel I legally owe her any of it. What does the law say?

Asked on April 14, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Arkansas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

They do no not have any intrinsic legal right to additional compensation for improvements they voluntarily or unilaterally made. The 50/50 ownership means at base that you and they each get 50% of the proceeds; there was no agreement from you to give them a larger share in exchange for the improvements; and if they lived there for an extra 1 1/2 years or so, gaining the benefit thereof, while you did not live there and gained no corresponding benefit, from even an "equitable," or fairness, point of view, the improvements can be seen as her and her husband's "rent" for getting to live there while the other owner (you) did not. There is thus no basis for her to demand the money. That said, it is probably better to do what you are attempting and try to compromise on an amount, than fight with your family over and possibly hold up the sale, if they will not agree to sell without getting some additional compensation.


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