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Forced Sale of Real Property in Rhode Island with a Family Member, Business Associate, Significant Others: Partition

A partition case in Rhode Island (RI) is an equitable legal action in which a corporation or legal entity can force the sale of real estate against another co-owner or life tenant. Partition cases can result from many different types of real estate disputes between owners or life tenants or others with interests in the property as set forth in Rhode Island statute. A partition case may involve residential or commercial real estate.

If a partition suit is filed and there is no defense to the actual partition, then the Court will appoint a commissioner to sell the real property. Note that there are usually no defenses to the actual partition. One potential defense that is rarely successful is that the property could be divided by boundaries. Another possible defense could be that the entity does not have the legal right to partition because it does not qualify under Rhode Island statute or does not have proper legal title to the property, etc. There are other possible defenses that are not set out in this article.

In the vast majority of partition cases, there is no way to stop property partitioning unless there is an agreement. If there is no agreement, the Rhode Island Superior Court will appoint a commissioner to sell the property. In some limited circumstances, a partition case can be filed in Rhode Island Family Court. An RI Family Court Partition Action is usually found in the context of a post-divorce action involving third party owners or even a divorce involving third parties.

When a commissioner is appointed to sell the real estate, the parties lose a lot of control over the sale of the property. A commissioner is an independent Rhode Island attorney/attorney appointed by the Superior Court judge. A commissioner will be very costly to the parties because the commissioner’s legal fees will be taken from the proceeds of the sale prior to distribution to the parties.

The commissioner may also hire other real estate experts, such as a real estate appraiser, to do an appraisal on the property. The commissioner may also search the title to the property or hire a title examiner to determine if other parties have an interest in the real property. The title examiner or commissioner would have to look up the title in the deed registry. If there are title issues regarding the property, the commissioner may incur legal fees to resolve the title issues. Other parties with an interest in the real property may need to be joined as parties. The commissioner will also hire a real estate agent to list real estate for sale on the open market. The commissioner will generally agree to pay the real estate agent the prevailing commission rate. The real estate agent will be paid their commission at the closing of the real estate property. Either party to the partition lawsuit, the plaintiffs or the defendants may have the opportunity to purchase the property as long as they are willing to pay the fair market value of the real property.

In the vast majority of partition cases, agreement is reached before a commissioner is appointed. This allows the parties to avoid commissioner fees and avoid other legal fees for the parties’ attorneys. If the case is not resolved, the commissioner will sell the property and deposit the proceeds of the sale in the Court registry and the parties can discuss who is entitled to that proceeds. The commissioner may have to deal with eviction issues or landlord-tenant issues related to non-payment of rent.

After the Commissioner sells the property, the parties have the right to discuss what interest they have in the proceeds the Court withholds. The parties are entitled to a hearing/trial on the merits of their respective rights to the product. The parties can dispute and argue on issues related to the payment of taxes, appraisals, condominium issues, insurance, condominium fees, mortgage payments, home equity line payments, payment of lines of credit secured by real estate, services utilities, payment of heating, electricity, water, property maintenance, upkeep, extensions, rent from tenants, remodeling matters, contracts between the parties, payment of condominium fees, common maintenance fees, legal fees, etc. The Superior Court Judge or potentially a Jury (if applicable) will determine these issues.

Partition cases are often brought in the context of family disputes between family members who are arguing or unable to agree on whether or not to sell the property. In some cases, the family dispute concerns who is responsible for paying taxes, insurance, additions, maintenance, or upkeep on the property. Sometimes the parties cannot agree on the reasonable fair market value of the property.

In other cases, family members simply hate each other and their animosity leads to revenge and eventually a partition lawsuit in court. Many of these fights are longstanding family feuds and problems between brothers and sisters, parents and children, uncles, cousins, or other distant relatives. These cases are particularly sad when it comes to fathers or mothers fighting with their children (son or daughter)

In some cases, the property is seen as valuable family property that is passed down from generation to generation to one family member, while the other family member wants to sell the property (house) and withdraw the equity in the property.

Partition cases also arise in the context of breakups of boyfriends and girlfriends, or significant others who are involved in nasty breakups or even amicable breakups and cannot agree on how much of the proceeds each party will receive for the sale of real estate. Partition cases can also be the result of the termination of a same-sex/gay relationship. Since Rhode Island does not have gay marriages, gay couples who cannot agree on what to do with their domestic partner’s real estate may have to file a partition case in Superior Court. The Rhode Island Family Court does not have jurisdiction over these types of disputes.

Partition actions can also be brought in the context of other types of disputes. A life tenant with a life estate may try to force the sale of the property against the property owner. A life tenant is a person with a deceased life estate with the right to live in the property for the rest of their life. When the life tenant dies, the life estate is extinguished. The life tenant can request the sale of the property and can request the partition of the property.

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