Can my mom become the sole owner of a property we purchased together?

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Can my mom become the sole owner of a property we purchased together?

I bought a three family house with my mom two years ago. She lives on the ground
floor apartment, and I live on the third floor. She does not like my boyfriend,
but we keep to ourselves. Recently, I received a letter from a lawyer. It stated
that she intends to become the sole owner of the property. I pay a portion of the
mortgage each month she controls the actual payment I pay her, and I put a lot
of money into renovating my space. What are my rights? Can she do this? How can I
make sure I get the money back for the money I have spent?

Thank you.

Asked on May 7, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If you are both on the title--i.e. are both owners--she cannot become sole owner without your consent. Certainly, she can offer to buy you out, but it is voluntary on your part to do so: one person, even a co-owner, cannot make another give up his or her ownership interest (unless you and she already had a written agreement allowing her to force you sell to her under certain circumstances, and those circumstances occured).
If she doesn't want to own the property anymore and you can't or won't buy her out, she could bring a legal action, called an action for "partition," seeking a court order requiring that the property be marketed and sold and the proceeds (after paying any costs of sale and mortgage) be split between you: that is how  the law deals with co-owners of property being unable to jointly decide what to do with it. You would have the right to do this, too, if you wanted: if you ever want to explore that option, consult with a real estate attorney.


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