Photo: Marc Royce
Q: My boyfriend and I bought a house together several years ago. Pretty quickly, I learned that he wasn't the person I wanted to progress with in life. I tried to convince him that we should put the house up for sale, but he wouldn't budge. He didn't want to end the relationship. I moved out and am renting an apartment. I've asked him to buy me out, but he says he doesn't have the cash. Though I paid for half the new furniture, I don't even care about it. I just want to end this co-ownership and get on with my life, and I think he should do the same. I haven't actually said those words to him because I thought he would have decided to sell by now. What rights do I have?
A: It seems that your ex isn't ready to be your ex. He thinks that keeping the home is a way of keeping you connected to him. You say you tried to convince him to put the house up for sale. Sounds to me as if you were merely asking or suggesting. That was a nice way to start, but now it's time to get serious.
You don't need his permission to sell the house. As co-owner you have a right to bring what's called a partition action in court. This is a legal process by which the co-owner of a property files a lawsuit against the other owner to force a sale and divide the profits. Let's see if you can get him to agree to unload the house without having to take this step. Often just the threat of an expensive legal battle is enough to get the other party onboard.
But that means you need to be firm about telling him what you want. I get the impression that you're finding it hard to articulate your needs. He senses that, so he's free to do and say whatever he wants. You have to be strong and lay out exactly what has to happen. If he still doesn't budge, hire a lawyer who specializes in real estate litigation and let her take it from there.
From the February 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine