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Partition Action in Florida

Partition Action in Florida

Two or more people or legal entities are permitted to own real property in the state of Florida, regardless of whether the property is an investment or place of residence for the owners. However, as with any partnership, disputes may arise between the owners. For example, one owner may want to sell while the other wants to retain the property. If they cannot come to an agreement, either owner can file a partition claim in court.

Partitions are equitable claims and are governed by Chapter 64 of Florida Statutes. Equitable claims provide a judge significant discretion to make certain decisions based upon principles of fairness as applied to the facts of any particular case. The initial inquiry with a partition is whether or not the property is divisible. If it is, the court can simply divide the property equally between owners. A prime example is for larger plots of vacant land or a duplex that can be subdivided into 2 properties. Often the property is nonvisible, making it impossible to divide equally.

If the property cannot be divided, the court essentially supervises the sale of the property, such as if a judge appoints a special magistrate to conduct the private or public sale. In a partition claim, the judge is also responsible for ensuring an owner obtains certain credits if the expenses associated with the property were not equally paid by all owners. Relevant expenses include mortgage payments, taxes, capital improvements, or repairs to the property.

If an owner has paid 70% towards certain expenses, he or she will receive a credit in the judgment, which entitles them to more of the sale proceeds--also known as accounting. This is similar to a partnership in that owners equally share both expenses and income from the property. Any mortgages or liens must be paid off first before any split of the net proceeds is available.

Owners involved in a dispute over property are well advised to attempt to work out a settlement. If the property is sold at a public auction, the value obtained may be significantly less than the fair market value--leaving less money to be split. An agreement to sell the property through a real estate agent will ensure both owners can obtain more money from the sale. Another alternative solution is for one owner to purchase the other’s interest and transfer the property without requiring any sale at all.

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