A recent opinion of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee provides a good roadmap of the law for joint owners of land involved in partition cases where there are claims that the proceeds from the sale of the property should not be divided equally because of rental value received by a joint owner and because of repair and maintenance paid by a joint owner.
Here are the basic facts:
- Four siblings inherited a home (“Home”)
- One sibling, Janella, lived at the Home with the parents before they passed and before the four children became joint tenants
- After the parents died, Janella continued to reside at the Home
- The siblings agreed that Janella would continue to reside at the Home, would maintain it, and have repairs made in preparation for its sale
- Email correspondence established that all agreed that each sibling would contribute to the repairs and maintenance
- All four siblings had some personal items at the Home
- Janella informed her siblings that the necessary repairs would cost $48,000, but refused the requests of her siblings to provide more detailed information about the quotes and estimates
- Janella began setting deadlines for her siblings to remove their personal property from the Home before she discarded the same
- Janella stopped communicating with her siblings
- One sibling went to the Home to remove her items and had to call the police to gain entry because Janella refused to allow her to enter the Home
The siblings filed a partition action. The trial court found that there had been an ouster. It held that Janella owed, to her siblings, three fourths of the rental value of the Home during the time she resided there. It also held that the siblings owed Janella $60,000 for repairs, maintenance and taxes which she had paid towards the Home.
Janella appealed the trial court’s decision that she owed her siblings rent. Her siblings appealed the trial court’s decision that they owed Janella the $60,000. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee affirmed the trial court’s decision on both rulings.