I have a property in California. The title is "joint tenant" between me and my brother. If my brother never paid a cent into the house, is there a legal way to petition the court to remove his name from the title? My brother never live in the house, never paid property tax, etc. Please advise.
5 Answers from Attorneys
Without knowing how and why your brother came to be on title with you as joint tenants, there is no way to answer your question. It is very rare that someone can simply be removed from ownership of property just because they didn't pay for it.
You can't remove someone from a joint tenancy title just because they haven't paid property taxes, or didn't live in the house. At best you would have a right of reimbursement for costs of maintenance and property taxes that you have paid.
You can file an action for partition or for quiet title. Whether you are successful depends on a number of factors. You should go to a real estate attorney in your area to discuss the facts of this case and the possible outcome of any lawsuit.
You don't get to "remove his name from title". He and you are equal joint owners. If one of you dies, the other gets the property. Any valid claim you have that he owes you money because of the property can be brought in a lawsuit for damages.
I think your best solution is an action for partition. This is a specialized kind of lawsuit that gets its name from the old practice of dividing (partitioning) property between unhappy co-owners. Nowadays, most partition suits result in the court ordering the property to be sold and the net money proceeds to be split between the now-former co-owners. In the process, the court will take evidence on issues such as unequal contributions to costs such as down payment, loan payments (interest and principal), insurance, property taxes, and most necessary maintenance and repair, but often not improvements that benefitted only the co-owner in possession.
Many partition suits result in the defendant seeing the handwriting on the wall and settling out of court, before sale and final judgment. This saves time and legal expense for both.
A quiet title suit is unlikely to be successful, because your brother's title is apparently legally sound.
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