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Multiple owners of property would have equal shares

November 22, 2019
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Dear Mr. Feichthaler:

A few years ago, my parents were living up north and decided they wanted to be closer to us. They offered to fund the construction of a house that could accommodate them and my husband and I, which we supervised over a 2-year period. The property that was purchased in all of our names, and the mortgage is also.

Soon after moving in, my step-father-in-law completely changed, arguing with my husband and I, even breaking a few dishes in a fit of anger. After about three months, they decided to move back up to Indiana, packed up and left. They were supposed to pay for half of the expenses, and we don't know if we can cover them on our own. And, since they put in most of the money, we don't know what, if anything, we are entitled to.

- Jeannette M.

Dear Jeannette:

First, I am very sorry to hear about this situation. I am sure everyone had the best of intentions in arranging for the new house, and it is truly a shame it has resulted in this unexpected parting of ways. Before I address the legal issues, your situation is instructive regarding the importance of having written agreements regarding rights and obligations involving real estate. If you had clearly defined those roles, there would, at the very least, be more clarity about what happens next. An agreement may also have avoided this controversy to begin with.

Assuming you have no written agreement, Florida law generally presumes that a property that is held by multiple persons is owned equally by them. Even when different amounts were given by an owner, the law will often look at this additional amount as a gift, unless there is evidence to the contrary. So, even if your parents utilized their funds to construct the house, you and your husband still may be entitled to half the proceeds.

Every situation relating to shared ownership is unique, so I would recommend seeking professional advice before going forward with any resolution. Ideally, you will be able to reach an agreement with your parents where an amount payable to them is acceptable, either through a sale to a third party, or for you to buy them out if you can afford to do so.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for over 30 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continues his service to the community through the Cape Coral Caring Center, Cape Coral Historical Museum, and Cape Coral Kiwanis. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for over 18 years, and they have four children together. He earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is AV Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell for professional ethics and legal ability, and is a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

Mr. Feichthaler can be reached at, or (239) 542-4733.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.



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