What happens when you’ve inherited property with your Meth-head brother; or now have discovered that the girlfriend you bought the house with – really was from Hell? Neither will voluntarily sell the property, split the profits and move on. Are you stuck?
Nope. “The Law” has your back on this one.
Calif Civil Code § 872.210 allows you to sue your brother/girlfriend (or any other co-owner) to force the sale of the property. It’s called a “partition action.”
Sometimes, if the property is susceptible to a division, like 10 empty lots in a yet-to-be-built subdivision, or a duplex that’s been “condominium-ized” into two units, you might be able to cut the property in half and keep one-half for yourself, with the other half going to … whomever. Most of the time though, the property is sold and the money is what gets split up.
And that’s where the rubber meets the road – in the “Accounting” phase.
As you might guess, one side thinks they are entitled to more than just half the proceeds; for any number of reasons. One side may have paid the mortgage, or spent money on improvements that increased the value of the property. They’d want to get those dollars back, before any split of profits.
What generally happens, is a fight; like the divorcing couple that spends $10,000 in legal fees fighting over a $100 lamp they bought on the honeymoon. No one wins but the lawyers (Hey, I gotta make a living somehow!). Every now and then, if the other side is really stupid and just wasting money, the ‘good guys’ can recover those attorney fees. It’s all up to the judge’s discretion. So, be smart; be fair.