Tenant in common can sell his share


POSTED: Tuesday, December 23, 2008

  Question: I own a rental property with a cousin. It is held in tenants in common. My cousin wants to sell. I don't. Can my cousin just sell his 50 percent interest, or does he have grounds to force the sale of the entire property? What is the law in Hawaii regarding a forced sale? Can't he sell just his share? Is it advisable to have an attorney? My cousin will be suing me to sell the property.

Answer: Yes, the co-owner can sell his/her share, and the cousin who is unwilling to sell could get stuck with a co-owner who is a stranger to him. However, as a practical matter, the seller/cousin would probably not get as much for his interest. It sounds like the cousin who wants to sell is thinking about a partition lawsuit, which would divide the property. But because it is impractical or impossible in most cases to split the property, the likely result is a forced sale, where the property is auctioned off by a commissioner and the net sales proceeds are divided. Of course, a partition lawsuit means attorneys' fees, court costs and commissioner's fees; and you probably won't get as much money at an auction.

The most practical thing would be for the two cousins to agree on the value of the property and have one cousin buy out the other. If they cannot agree on the value, then perhaps they can jointly select an appraiser, and based on the appraisal, the cousin who wants to keep the property could buy out the other cousin - if this is economically feasible.


Legal Aid Society of Hawaii operates statewide. Practice areas include housing, public benefits, consumer and family law but not criminal law. Call 536-4302. Submit questions by e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or by mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.