You and your boyfriend/girlfriend broke up, but what do you do with the house you bought together?
An increasingly common dilemma for unmarried couples is what to do with the house. As much as lawyers like me yell from the rooftops “DON’T DO IT”, more and more calls come in asking what to do with property that’s in both parties’ names after a split. Essentially, based on your circumstances, you have three options.
1. Purchase each other’s interest
An easy solution is for one of the parties to quitclaim their interest to the other. Often, the price for transfer consideration doesn’t even have to be monetary. The party receiving the quitclaim can agree to refinance the property into their own name, getting the party leaving the home completely off the mortgage. If you’re going this route, make sure to contact your mortgage holder IN ADVANCE to make sure that you can refinance adequately and also to get their approval for the quitclaim deed. Many mortgages have clauses in them that can bring the entire amount due and owing if a party quitclaims their interest without approval.
2. Sell the house outright
If neither of you wants to stay in the house, you can agree to just jointly sell the property. This is the “clean break” solution and if there is equity in the house the only point of contention will be how to split it. So long as you can agree on a percentage split of the proceeds after the sale of the house, this can allow you to have an easy split not only from the property, but also from your ex.
3. Partition the property
If neither of those work, your only other option is to petition a court to partition the property. Partitioning a property is the process of determining which owner owes how much of a property, and then either forcing one owner to buy the other out, or selling the property and splitting the proceeds based on ownership. If you can, use this as a last resort, especially if one of you really wants to continue living in the property, because if you can’t agree then it will just go to a new buyer and you’ll be out of luck.
Certainly, there are ways to avoid these kinds of issues in the first place (purchasing in an LLC or trust, for example). But most of the time if you’re having this issue, it’s because you didn’t see the relationship ending anyway. For any one of these steps, you should contact a competent real estate attorney who can draft the necessary documents for you and your ex to make sure that the interests in the property are adequately being transferred and you are being protected from any legal liability.
This article is meant to be utilized as a general guideline. Nothing in this blog is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to provide legal advice on which you should rely without talking to your own retained attorney first. If you have questions about your particular legal situation, you should contact a legal professional.