If my sister and I inherited a piece of raw land and both our names are on the deed, what are our legal rights and obligations to one another?

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If my sister and I inherited a piece of raw land and both our names are on the deed, what are our legal rights and obligations to one another?

Can one of us require certain things of the other (for instance, can I make her pay half of costs to maintain the property)? Can one of us prevent the other from doing certain things on the property (for instance, can she stop me from mowing blackberries or storing possessions there)?

Asked on December 22, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Oregon

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, you really can't make a co-owner do or not do something (at least on any permanent basis). What you can do, however, is to get the property "partitioned". This is a legal remedy available to co-owners of property when they cannot agree as to ownership matters. Partition allows for the division of property among co-owners; any co-owner can file for such an action. Accordingly, if a property can be physically divided the court will so instruct. However, if division would be impracticable (e.g. if dividing raw land would violate zoning laws due to acerage requiremenst), a court would order a "sale in lieu of partition" and an equitable division of the proceeds among the co-owners. Yet, before doing so, the court would permit one co-owner to purchase the interest of the remaining co-owner at fair market value.

If, prior to obtaining a partition, there is "waste" being committed on the property, the party not committing such waste might be able to get an injunction which would prohibit the other co-owner from causing damage to the property (this can also include any act that decreases its value). Additionally, one co-owner could take the other co-owner to court and sue for any amounts that they had to pay out above their proportionate share for the maintenance of the property.


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