If I own a house with my ex-girlfriend and she is planning on selling the house, what rights do I have?

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If I own a house with my ex-girlfriend and she is planning on selling the house, what rights do I have?

Both of our names are on the title/mortgage. I haven’t lived in the house for over a year now because I let her stay there while I got an apartment. She said that I’m not getting any money at all because she claims that I “abandoned” the house which I never did.

Asked on October 22, 2015 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

There is no such thing as "abandoning" property you own--whether or not you live there, or whether or not you make productive use of it, it's still your property. 
If your girlfriend owns more than half (e.g. say she put up 60% of the money), she can sell it without your permission, but you will get your share of the equity (if any) after paying expenses of sale and paying off any mortgage.
If you own more than half, then even if you don't live there, she has no legal right to sell it--you're the majority owner.
If you both own half (you went in 50 - 50), neither of you can sell it without the other's permission unless one or both of you go to court and get a court order directing the house's sale. (When the 50-50 owners of a propert or asset are deadlocked, courts can order the asset's sale and the distribution of its proceeds to be keep the people from being trapped in an unending standoff.)
If she does manage to sell it even when she should not have been able to do so legally and refuses to give you the money from the sale, you could sue her to get you share of any equity/proceeeds.
Note however that if she did foot the expenses for the last year+ while you were not there (e.g. mortgage, insurance, taxes, etc.), she may be legally entitled to a credit for those necessary expenses (necessary to preserve the property and keep ownership) and therefore be reimbursed for some or all of them out of the sale.


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