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Title Disputes: When One Party
Doesn’t Want to Sell

Curiale Hostnik PLLC March 8, 2022

There are many times in life when you’ll find yourself a co-owner of a piece of property with someone else, such as a family member, spouse, or business partner. Even in the best circumstances, there may be a time when one of the co-owners wants to sell their interest. These issues can often be resolved without resorting to the courts—but if the owners can’t come to a joint decision, it may be necessary to pursue a partition action. If you’re in the Tacoma, Washington area and have found yourself in a title dispute you can’t resolve, call us at Curiale Hostnik PLLC to speak with a real estate attorney who can help.

What Happens When One Person Won’t Sell

When one owner doesn’t want to sell a jointly-held property, you can either attempt to resolve it on your own or ask the court for help. This is most commonly seen in a divorce when the couple can’t determine an equitable division of assets, such as who gets the marital home. You also see this issue come up with inherited properties. In many cases, after a parent or grandparent passes, they’ll leave their home to two or more children, and those siblings are at odds on what to do with the property. Lastly, this is also seen with invested ownership partners, where one business owner may want to leave and the two partners cannot agree on how to divide their assets.


In cases where the joint owners cannot agree upon a solution, the court may intervene with a partition action. This is a method to split the real or personal property in a way that both titleholders get an equal portion of the property. There are three main types of partitions: Partition in Kind, Partition by Appraisal, and Partition by Judgment.

Types of Partitions

The first method, a partition in kind, is also referred to as a partition by physical division. As the name implies, this approach is used when the property can be physically split in half (such as a piece of rural land), and each owner gets an equal portion of it. This partition is only used when the property can be reasonably divided, and when each titleholder will gain more value than by selling the whole property outright and splitting the profits.

A partition by appraisal occurs when one title holder buys out the other’s interest in the property after a court-ordered appraisal has taken place. Both parties must agree to this partition.

A partition by sale occurs when the entire property is sold and then the profits are equally distributed amongst the titleholders. In this case, one owner can force the sale of the property even if the other doesn’t want it. However, the sale still must be approved by the court after they’ve determined that a physical partition is not feasible (such as a house that can’t be divided in half) and that the sale would bring about a more equitable division of the assets for all parties.

The Partition Process

A partition action can be filed in the courts by one owner of a jointly held asset, and this should be done with the assistance of a skilled real estate lawyer. The action will then be distributed to all other owners or lien holders. The other owners may contest the action, but with few exceptions, it will usually proceed, and all owners are given an equal say before the judge. The action will then be presented to the court, which will decide which manner of partition is in the best interests of all co-owners.

Dividing the Proceeds

After the partition is complete, the proceeds will be divided equally amongst the co-owners. This could be a monetary disbursement or allocation of the newly divided property. Any fees or expenses associated with the partition are usually divided equitably amongst the owners.

Working with Experienced
Real Estate Attorneys

Title disputes and other real estate matters can be complex. At Curiale Hostnik PLLC, we have over 30 years of experience helping people in and around Tacoma, Washington, and cities throughout Pierce County including Puyallup, Gig Harbor, University Place, and Lakewood. Reach out to us today for legal assistance resolving your title dispute.