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Mark K. McCown: Jerk brother is trying to take over house

Dear Lawyer Mark: I have a question about property.

Me and my two brothers inherited the old home place when my dad died.

It’s quite a few acres with a small house and a pond that Dad hoped we would use with our families as a place to go for a weekend and fish or hunt.

Well, to put it like it is, one of my brothers is a jerk. He got his girlfriend pregnant, and wants to move into the house with her and the new baby, so that he can save money on rent.

He says that if we’re OK with it, then we can still fish and hunt, but there really isn’t much we can do because we all have to agree to sell it.

He already moved stuff in, and said that because he is an owner, he can live there rent free. What can we do to stop him from being that big of a jerk? — Angry in Aid

Dear Angry: Well, you can’t stop him from being a jerk, but you can stop him from taking full control of the property.

As equal owners of the property, you and each of your brothers have the same rights of ownership and use as each other.

This means that you each would share equally in the expenses, such as property taxes and insurance, as well as the income, such as from renting it out, granting hunting licenses or timbering the property.

Your brother does not have a greater right to stay in the house simply because he moves his stuff in, and could actually be charged a fair market rental value that would be split among the three of you.

If the relationship completely deteriorates, any of you can actually force a sale of the property, called a “partition suit.”

Ohio does not require co-owners of property to continue to own the property together if one or more of them does not want to.

When someone wants out, it can be by agreement, where one or more of you sell your interest to the other, or a lawsuit can be brought in court.

If the co-owners inherited the property, as in your case, they have to wait a year after the original owner died to file suit.

When a partition suit is filed, the court will require the sheriff to send appraisers to the property to see if it can be divided up equally without damage to the value.

In your case, with a house and pond, it probably could not be, so the appraisers would then determine the fair market value of the property.

After the appraisal is filed, any of the owners can file a paper saying that he wants to buy the property at the appraised value.

If only one does, he gets the property, and the money is divided as discussed later.

If nobody requests it, or more than one person requests it, the sheriff sells the property at a public auction to the highest bidder, who could be anybody.

Once the property is sold, the sheriff uses the sale proceeds to pay the cost of filing suit, including his fees, the appraisers’ fees, the court’s fees and the attorney’s fees, and then distributes what money is left to each owner according to their percentage of ownership (in your case, each would get a third of the money leftover).

Thought for the Week: Government has no other end, but the preservation of property. — John Locke.

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.