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Forced sale may be only way to get boyfriend out of house

May 15, 2020
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Dear Mr. Feichthaler,

I bought a house with my boyfriend in December (not sure if "boyfriend" is the right term, we are both in our 60s), for which I put in nearly all of the money. We hold the property as joint tenants, and there is no mortgage.

Well, I may have made a mistake, because, as soon as we moved in, he started acting weird. I did some Internet research on him and found that he has been married two times before, each time the marriage ended with the passing of his wife, and he inherited property. I don't mean to be paranoid, but this, combined with his behavior, has me concerned. Recently, I decided to move out of the house and into a condominium I own, which is vacant since we can't rent to anyone right now with COVID going on. He still lives in the house.

Can I get him out and get my money back?

-Chloe C.

Dear Chloe,

Caution should always be exercised when purchasing real estate with a non-spouse, whether it be a family member, friend or significant other. Ideally, there will be a written agreement regarding the use, sharing of costs, and all other items that may need to be looked to where, as here, the relationship doesn't work out. Most people do not worry about an agreement, and I assume you do not have one. So, we are left with a few options.

First, you can negotiate, either on your own or through legal counsel, to buy him out of the property, or he could buy out your interest. This is the best way forward from a cost, time and stress perspective.

Unfortunately, without a written agreement, the Florida courts will consider both of you 50-50 owners of the equity as a starting point, even though your contributions were greater than his. Essentially, they look at your extra funds as a "gift." Now, since he lives there and is benefitting from that abode, you can argue that any costs you have spent while you didn't live there (like property taxes, utilities, etc.) could be offset from his share. But that may be little consolation if he seeks half the overall value of the house. If the two of you cannot agree on a buyout, or a sale of the property to a third party, your last resort is to seek court relief by filing a partition action, and obtaining a court order mandating a sale. As you can imagine, there will be additional costs to this, and you may not get market value. Always better to avoid lawsuits where we can, so I hope a fair settlement can be worked out between the two of you. If you fear for your safety, it is best not to engage with him directly, instead seek an attorney to assist you with the negotiation. The attorney can also demand that he leave you alone, and could assist with a restraining order if it was justified. If the "weird" behavior has involved threats or actual physical attack, you should contact the police or sheriff, as well. While he is on title to the property, both of you have a right to live there, and he cannot be removed except with a forced sale.

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 eric@capecoralattorney.com, 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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