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How do Washington courts resolve partition actions?

Oct 29, 2023 | Real Estate |

Joint ownership of real estate is common in Washington. When someone acquires a shared ownership interest in real property, they can benefit from the use of the property and possibly its slow appreciation in value. They must share those benefits with their co-owners. They also share all the obligations that come with ownership. Joint ownership means that there are multiple people’s incomes and credit scores helping secure financing. It also means that multiple people have shared responsibility to maintain the property and contribute toward taxes or insurance.

Although joint ownership is a convenient way to acquire property, people often end up at odds with their co-owners. One person may want to sell the property, while another may not. There may also be disputes about financial contributions or the maintenance requirements for the property. Frustrations about carrying too much responsibility or a desire to cash in on the property’s value may worsen those tensions. One of the owners may file a partition action with the courts. How might a judge resolve a dispute about what happens with jointly owned real property?

Judges have the authority to take multiple steps

Resolving a dispute among co-owners requires careful consideration. Judges will review the details of the property’s condition and the circumstances of co-ownership. They can hear from the person requesting the partition action to understand why they want to separate their ownership interest.

In some cases, including scenarios where the property is a large parcel of unimproved land, a judge can divide the property into multiple parcels and allocate one parcel to each of the owners. Other times, judges may have the authority to order the sale of the property. They could also help negotiate arrangements in which one or more co-owners will buy out the interest of the person who filed the partition action, allowing them to end their ownership obligations for the property.

Ideally, co-owners can settle things amicably. However, when they cannot, the Washington civil courts can help resolve a dispute about jointly owned real property. Learning about the different possible outcomes if someone files a partition action may help people choose the right approach to resolving a dispute with their co-owners. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to get started.