Imagine a house or piece of land that has been in your family for generations. It has changed hands several times, and the wills of former heirs have given more and more people an ownership interest in it. Most likely, disagreements over the property will arise. You may want to keep it in the family while others want to sell, or vice versa. What should you do? What can you do?

Virginia law offers ways to solve these disputes, but you may be able to settle your differences outside of court. For instance, if you wanted to keep the house—and you had enough money—you could offer to buy your co-owners’ interest without getting a judge involved.

But if you are still at an impasse, you could resort to one of three legal remedies. One is a petition for a partition. This asks the Court to divide the property among the co-owners. But since this action will literally divide the property, it is reserved for pieces of land that do not have any real property.

What if the dispute is over a house? You could file a petition for allotment. The court will only consider allotment when dividing the property, called a “partition in kind,” is not feasible. Regardless, an allotment is essentially a court order that compels your co-owners to let you buy their interest in the property. If more than one co-owner wants an allotment, the court will consider factors such as your duration of ownership, sentimental attachment to the property, and your investment in its improvement.

But if the court determines that allotment would not be possible or fair to all involved, it may order a sale in lieu of a partition. A co-owner could also petition for a sale on their own. If the court orders a sale, the co-owners or the court itself will select a real estate broker to put the property on the open market, where it will most likely be sold to a third party. The co-owners would then be paid out of the net proceeds for their respective interests in the property.

Whether it is considering a partition, allotment, or a sale, the court must be sensitive to the legal rights of each co-owner. If you are considering any of these actions, contact the attorneys at Kondori & Moorad, so that we can help you know your rights and guide you through the process.

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