Money owed to co-owner when next to nothing was originally put down?

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Money owed to co-owner when next to nothing was originally put down?

I bought a house over a year ago with a boyfriend through a jount bank account when I was the primary earner. I was the sole provider for over a year paying for all of his bills and we had a joint bank account. We purchased a home in both of our names but he was cheating on me at the time he signed the papers which I was not aware of. He has not put in a very small amount towards the

mortgage less than one payment nor has he lived in the house for the past 12 months but now feels he is owed money in order for him to sign a quit claim deed to get his name off of the title of the house.

Asked on November 15, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, as an owner, he is entitled to a share of the value or proceeds of the house. A good case can be made that if you paid the downpayment and paid more of the mortgage, that you would be entitled to more in the event of, say, a sale: for example, say the house is worth $250k now; you put down $25k towards it, paid $25k more than him for the mortgage, and the remaining mortgage is $175k. In the event of litigation over who gets what, a court might first take the mortgage out, leaving $75k; then credit you for your extra contribitions, or at least some part of them, giving you the first up-to-$50k of equity left after the mortgage; then you and he would split the difference. 
BUT we hasten to add that while a court could credit you for your payments, it does not have to unless you and he had a written agreement that you'd be credited for them; he could get up to 1/2 of the equity, were the house to be sold. Crediting you for your contributions would be in the court's "equitable" discretion.
More to the point: you can't force him to sign away his interest to you. You could go to court to force a sale of the house to third parties (i.e. put it on the market under court supervision), in what is commonly called an action "for partition," but you can't force him to sell or give you his interest; all you could do is take legal action--potentially expensive legal action--to force a sale. (A sale is the law's   remedy when the co-owners of a house cannot agree as to what to do with it.) 
Therefore, it is strongly in your interet to work this out with him, even if it means paying him something, since 1) he does have a claim for at least some, and up to 1/2, the equity; and 2) you want to avoid having to pay for a lawsuit and sell the house to move this forward.


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