What to do if my parents passed away and my sister and I are both on the deed but whilw she’ been living there she has not paid any of the taxes or village bills?

If I pay off the taxes and bills that total about $9,000, could I get legal ownership of the house?

Asked on September 17, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

Mark Siegel / Law Office of Mark A. Siegel

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Your question indicates that the village property taxes & bills have not been paid. It is important that you promptly contact the village tax assessor's office to find out if the village is or will be starting a tax foreclosure proceeding, based upon the unpaid tax arrears. You should also ask how you go about paying the arrears & any interest & penalties to the village, in order to avoid the possibility of losing the property because of unpaid property taxes.

With respect to your co-ownership of the property, under NY law, certain parties, including tenants in common & joint tenants with a right of survivorship, can start an action for partition & sale. The Court is empowered to judicially order the sale of real property. The Court also has the power to appoint a referee to conduct an accounting, which determines the respective contributions of the co-owners for maintenance & upkeep of the property, & how the sale proceeds should be distributed after the court ordered sale.

Co-owners cannot charge one another rent, since their relationship is not that of lessor & lessee. However, if the property could be legally rented to a tenant, but for the occupancy of one co-owner, the other co-owner might try to have the referee consider the other co-owner's loss of rental income, during the accounting by the referee.

When the referee completes the accounting & has reviewed each co-owner's admissible evidence & documentation (including satisfactory proof re: mortgage payments, taxes & the payment of other expenses), the referee submits a report to the judge, stating his or her findings & conclusions. The judge can confirm or reject the referee's report, or send the matter back to the referee with specific directions from the Court.

You may wish to seriously consider retaining an attorney who practices in the area of real estate litigation. A partition action is complex legal matter, which requires proper evaluation & representation by an experienced attorney based upon the particular facts & law. I hope this provided you with a useful general overview.

david slater / david p.slater, esq.

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

As an owner, you are entitled to be paid rent.  You would also have a lien for your share of the expenses paid if the property is ever sold. Merely paying taxes does not entitle you to full ownership.


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