Types of Disagreements and Lawsuits Over a House and How To Resolve Them

Disagreements and lawsuits over a house normally occur between and among the following:

  • Family members
  • Co-owners
  • Parties with a contractual relationship
  • Unrelated parties

Resolving the disagreement between parties will depend on the reason for the disagreement. Sometimes, matters can be resolved amicably. Other times, a lawyer might be needed.

Disagreements Between Family Members

There are normally two types of disagreements between family members: as co-owners or when one family member becomes the sole owner of the parent’s (or ancestor’s) property.

Disagreements Over a House Between Family Members Who Are Co-owners

This type of disagreement occurs when family members inherit property as co-owners. Although this happens more often than not when a person dies without a will, it also happens when a parent leaves the family home to the surviving spouse and children in equal shares.

The most common disagreement here arises when there is conflict regarding how to use the property. Usually, one or two family members live on the property rent-free, while the other family members who are co-owners do not derive any benefit from co-owning such property. The dissatisfied co-owner will attempt to negotiate with his other family members to sell the property. Usually, the family members who are staying in the property rent-free would refuse. This would compel the other family members to file a lawsuit for partition.

Once a case is filed, it is to all family members’ interest to amicably resolve the lawsuit because courts will usually order the sale of the property unless the property can be physically subdivided, such as unimproved land. The longer the lawsuit stays, the larger the legal fees. These legal fees will be taken from the sale of the property, which would lower the equity share of each family member co-owner.

Thus, a lawsuit for partition is usually just filed for leverage in negotiations on disagreements over a house between family members/co-owners. Read more about partition here.

Disagreement Over a House When One Family Member Becomes Sole Owner

Another type of disagreement over a house that normally occurs is when one family member (usually the child) becomes the sole owner of the house. This usually happens either before the death of the parent (via a deed, reserving to the parent a life estate) or after death (via will).

If your parent transferred the house to your sibling prior to death, you may contest the transfer for being made with undue influence, lack of mental capacity, mistake, fraud, or forgery, which are essentially the same grounds to contest a will. It is filed within 6 years from the date the cause occurred, or if it is based on fraud, within two years from the time fraud could have been discovered with reasonable diligence.

In this case, remember that what you are trying to prove is that the transfer your parent made to your sibling was not intended to be a gift because there was a defect in the transfer. If your parent voluntarily and intelligently transferred the house to your sibling, to the exclusion of all family members, there was no defect in the intention of the transfer of the house to your sibling, and such transfer cannot be rescinded

If you are successful in contesting the deed transfer, the estate gets the property. The property is divided depending on whether the parent died with or without a will. If the parent died without a will, the property is divided in accordance with state laws of intestacy. If the parent died with a will, the designated beneficiary in the will is the person who will receive the property. More on contesting deed transfers here.

If your parent transferred the house to your sibling in the will to take effect after death, you can contest the will usually with the same grounds as contesting a deed transfer: forgery, fraud, undue influence, and lack of mental capacity. You cannot contest a will on the ground of mistake, unless that mistake was a consequence of fraud.

When the will is set aside, the house is divided in accordance with the laws of intestacy. This means, your parent’s closest kin (usually the surviving spouse and children) will receive the property. More on contesting wills here.

Disagreements Over a House Between Co-Owners

Co-owners who purchase property together may encounter some obstacles in property management, especially when there is no co-ownership agreement in place.

A co-ownership agreement can define the rights and obligations of the parties even before conflict has taken place. Examples of rights and obligations that a co-ownership agreement can touch upon are:

  • How much each party is contributing to the real estate transaction
  • Ownership percentages
  • Payment of monthly mortgage payments, taxes, homeowners’ dues, repairs, and utilities
  • Remedies if one co-owner is unable to pay their share of the mortgage payment or expenses
  • Options if a co-owner wants to sell the property o wants to refinance the mortgage to get equity out
  • Property management obligations and manner of profit sharing in case the property is rented out
  • Resolution of disputes
  • Death of a co-owner

A property lawyer with expertise can easily draft a co-ownership agreement to ensure that remedies are provided for in all types of co-ownership conflicts and situations.

Disagreements Over a House Between Parties With a Contractual Relationship Other Than As Owners

Even if the parties are not co-owners, disagreements over a house can still occur, such as between landlord and tenant, mortgagor and mortgagee, or seller and buyer.

A tenant who lives in the house of a landlord may have some issues relating to property management, such as liabilities of the landlord for certain repairs, failure to return security deposit, and rent overcharge. A tenant lawyer can help in this case. More tenant issues are addressed here: https://nyestateslawyer.com/tenant-lawyer-nyc-protect-your-rights/

On the other hand, a landlord may have issues against a tenant living in his house for non-payment, violation of lease agreement, or the conduct illegal activities on the leased premises, and would like the tenant to be evicted. In that case, the landlord needs to file a case for eviction against the tenant. Eviction cases are strictly procedural, and for this reason, it is recommended that the landlord use the services of a lawyer, especially for the first time, in order to ensure that the eviction case is not dismissed. More information on eviction issues here.

A mortgagor-mortgagee relationship, on the other hand, usually arises between a financial institution that has lent the owner of the house money, using the house as security for the loan. When the debtor fails to pay the bank the monthly amortization, the bank can initiate foreclosure proceedings against the mortgagee. The mortgagee, however, has defenses in a foreclosure proceeding, especially when the mortgagor fails to comply with the strict procedural requirements for foreclosure. More information on foreclosure here.

During foreclosure proceedings, a notice of pendency may be recorded on your property, which can hinder any sale. A notice of pendency attorney can help you cancel a lien on your property, depending on the unique circumstances of the case. More information on notice of pendency here: https://nyestateslawyer.com/notice-of-pendency-attorney-how-we-can-help-you-with-notice-of-a-pending-lawsuit-on-a-real-property/

In the case of a seller-buyer relationship, most disagreements arise when a seller or a buyer does not wish to continue with the sale and dispute the return or non-return of the buyer’s security deposit. The return or non-return of the security deposit depends on the buyer’s reason for backing out of the sale and terms and provisions of their contract. Should you have issues, having a lawyer read your contract to make sure you have the right to enforce or take such action is important in order for you not to be liable for damages. If you need more information about buyer-seller disagreements, you can click here.

Disagreements Over a House Between Unrelated Parties

Most disagreements over property between unrelated parties usually involve neighbors fighting over easements and boundary disputes. Easements burden a property with the grant to another of the use of such property for a purpose. For example, if there are two lots that are side by side, and one lot has no exit to a main road, the lot with the exit to the main road may be burdened with an easement to allow the other lot with no exit the right of way to use a portion of that property to enter and exit his lot.

Easements are a burden, but can also be terminated by adverse possession, merger, condemnation, release, end of necessity, and abandonment. Before pursuing an action regarding an easement that could have an adverse reaction to your neighbor, it is best to seek the counsel of lawyer to ensure that your course of action will not result to damages, in case a lawsuit is filed. More information on easements here.

If you have any issues regarding disagreements over a house and you want to know how to resolve them, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York City, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 212-233-1233 or send us an email at [email protected].

Attorney Albert Goodwin

Law Offices of
Albert Goodwin, PLLC
31 W 34 Str, Suite 7058
New York, NY 10001

Tel. 212-233-1233

[email protected]

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