My two older sisters and I inherited a small 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house on about 2 acres from our father. He passed away 6 years ago and we have been equal owners since then. The mortgage was paid off over 8 years ago so we haven't had to worry about making payments on the home. We have done little up keep and the home is in poor condition. The property is located in far Northern California.
We have all lived in the house at different times over the past 6 years and just started to rent the house to a friend for $600 a month because it was sitting empty.
The problem with this situation is that two of us want to sell the house and my oldest sister wants to keep it. She is not in the financial situation to purchase the property being that she doesn't have full time employment, no savings and poor credit. Two years ago, she stated that she would be building her credit and saving money to buy the property from us. Nothing has changed and no progress has been made on her part.
We are more than ready to move on and sell this house but I'm not sure if we can legally sell the house and property if we are not in agreement.
Thank you for your time.
2 Answers from Attorneys
You can force a sale through what is called a "partition" action. It is an abbreviated lawsuit in which some of the joint owners of a property tell the court that they do not want to be co-owners anymore, and ask the court to divide the property. In the old days, before zoning laws and the Subdivision Map Act, judges would literally partition the property. Now they can't do that, so they order the property sold at a sheriff's sale (like a foreclosure) and the proceeds divided. These cases never get to the sale, though, because once faced with how little a property brings at a sheriff's sale, and given that a sale is inevitable, the owner who does not want to sell quickly either finds a way to buy the others out, or agrees to list the property and get as much as possible for it. Often, just the threat and an explanation of a partition action is enough to bring them to their senses. If you would like further assistance with your situation, please let me know.
I agree with Mr. McCormick.