Partition suits over real property can feel like they are seeking to divide the undividable – how do you split up a home shared by multiple parties?
Courts can face the question of who should keep a formerly shared property. When family members no longer can or want to live together, a common solution is to sell the property and split the proceeds. But for the property owner who wishes to remain in their home, for reasons financial, sentimental or practical, recently established law can protect tenants-in-common from forced sales by co-owners.
As of July 2020, the court is required to order a property appraisal in most cases. An independent expert and a hearing on the market value of the property is the starting point, before a partition suit can be considered on its merits.
The neutral appraisal provides the opportunity for allotment – that is, for one party to keep the entire property by purchasing the other co-owners' interest at fair market value.
If multiple owners cannot agree on who should be allotted the whole property, there is a multi-pronged test for the court to apply in order to make a determination. The court must consider:
- Length of time in the property
- Sentimental attachments
- Harm caused by removing someone from their property
- Fair share of property taxes, insurance and maintenance contributed by each owner
- Other relevant factors.
This procedure to consider allotment must fail completely, with the court finding it is not practicable or equitable to allot any part of the property, before the whole property can be sold against the wishes of one of its owners.
When facing or initiating a partition suit over property in Virginia, working with an experienced, licensed attorney can help ensure you know your full range of options. If staying in a home is your priority, you may no longer have to rush to sale. During a stressful and challenging time, allotment can make all the difference for property owners.