Co-Ownership Property Rights In California

Ownership of property by two or more persons is referred to as co-ownership. Popular avenues of co-owned property, like condominiums, are also covered under this law.

Also known as concurrent ownership, or co-tenancy, in California this includes the following:

  • Tenancy in common
  • Joint tenancy
  • Partnership
  • Community property

While co-ownership of a property may appear to be a mutually beneficial option, problems can arise in the case of sale of property or disputes between owners. It is important for all involved parties to have a thorough understanding of their rights and responsibilities as co-owners – which vary depending on the kind of co-ownership contract in question – and to put in place a comprehensive written co-ownership agreement.

Joint Tenancy in California

California laws dictate that real estate co-ownership in itself does not equate to a partnership. Partnership property, therefore, does not belong to either partner.

Joint tenancy requires that all co-owners must simultaneously convey the following:

  • Time
  • Title
  • Interest
  • Possession

A failure to convey joint tenancy results in a tenancy in common.

Tenancy in common means each tenant has an undivided interest in the property. Under California law, each tenant owns a share of the property, and they do not automatically have inheritance rights to the portion owned by another tenant in common upon their death.

It is to be noted that co-ownership laws do not apply to joint property ownership that is enjoyed by spouses, which is governed by family law.

Rights of Co-owners in California

Co-owners enjoy equal rights to reside on the property. Co-owners cannot be excluded from the property and need not pay rent to the other owners unless this right is encroached upon.

Co-owners are entitled to the following:

  • Sharing profits from the property, including rent
  • Freedom to sell their interest in the property without the consent of fellow owners

In case of a death of a co-owner under a tenancy, the interest in the property is passed on to the deceased owner’s kin, while the interest is passed on to the remaining owners in the case of a joint tenancy.

Selling a Co-owned Property

To sell a co-owned property, the owners need to first file a partition lawsuit – which serves to terminate a joint interest in the property.

The partition might come in the following forms:

  • Sale of property
  • Division of interest in the property
  • Interest acquiring appraisal

One owner can also buy out the property if he has the consent of the joint owners. After escrow, the amount is first used to pay off legal fees and other costs before being distributed among the owners.

Division of Maintenance Expenses Between Co-owners

Co-owners are responsible for pitching in to meet the maintenance expenses of the property. While co-owners usually proportionately divide property expenses among themselves, reimbursements can be claimed post property sale if one owner has put in more funds than his expected share.

These reimbursements also apply to owners who have put in funds from their own pockets to improve the property. Any intentional damage to the property by an owner that will result in a depreciation of property value can be penalized by law.

Co-owners can claim damage recovery costs. This does not include wear and tear of the property.

To learn more about your specific case, speak with a Long Beach real estate attorney from the Law Offices of Jonathan D. Winters today! Contact us to get started.

Additional Reading: What You Need To Know About Selling Jointly Owned Property