Co-Ownership and Resolving Property Disputes in New York City

In New York City, where the cost of living is relatively high compared to other cities in the country, co-ownership of property is quite common. Specifically, as housing prices continue to increase, co-buying is a viable option for individuals to own brownstones, and other property types at affordable rates in the city. 

Unfortunately, property disputes go hand in hand with properties jointly owned by two or more owners. The relationship between co-owners can go bad for several reasons. For example, beneficiaries of a property sometimes become involuntary co-owners with family and friends. Business partners may want to end their relationship and/or disagree about the property’s future for various reasons. Finally, unmarried couples commonly purchase property together but then break up. One owner may stop paying the property expenses or the mortgage. The preceding situations could be a breeding ground for property disputes, 

Overall,  co-owners must be prepared and understand their options for handling property disputes when and if they arise. This is especially true given the complexity of New York City real estate laws and regulations. 

Read below to learn more about property disputes and how they are handled in New York City. 

What is Co-Ownership?

Co-ownership or co-buying can be defined as when two or more individuals or entities purchase property together and share ownership. There are several ways that this type of partnership may be structured, and the percentage that each owner holds does not have to be equal.

The Role of an Ownership Agreement

Getting a lawyer involved before purchasing the property (and before a property dispute) may be the best way to prevent costly litigation down the road. Specifically, an experienced lawyer could draft an ironclad ownership agreement that governs how property disputes will be handled so that limited court intervention will be necessary. This will save all the parties time and money. 

Specifically,, a well-drafted ownership agreement may detail the circumstances surrounding when a property should be sold. Or the ownership agreement may provide a procedure by which one owner can buy out another co-owner and so forth. The possibilities are endless. An experienced lawyer will ensure that all the required details are listed in your ownership agreement. 

How Are Property Disputes Settled Between Co-Owners When There is No Ownership Agreement?

In the event, that you do not have an ownership agreement, you will have two options for settling your property dispute. 

Court Intervention

Property disputes may be settled with court intervention throughout New York City and State.  Specifically, when co-owners don’t agree about property issues, one or more co-owner may petition the court for judicial intervention and let a judge partition the property. Any owner may ask the court to partition the property for whatever reason.

There are two ways that property may be partitioned. The first way is when a judge will physically partition or separate the property. Typically this is not practical, primarily when a structure is located on the property.

The second way a judge will partition property is by distributing the fair share of interest in the property to each co-owner. Each co-owner’s share will look at how the title is held to the property. Additionally, the judge will address lienholders and the interests of each mortgagee, if applicable. Once this evaluation is complete, the court will sell the property.


Generally speaking, it’s best if co-owners can work out their dispute without court intervention. Co-owners could come to their own unique settlement, which may include a buy-out of one owner’s interest in the property.  Another popular solution is that co-owners can agree to sell the property at a time certain. 


Final Thoughts

The importance of having an ownership agreement drafted for jointly owned property cannot be overstated. However, sometimes even when there is an ownership agreement, owners may still have to seek judicial intervention to settle property disputes. However, owners must keep in mind that going to court and litigating property disputes can be expensive and drag on for a long time. An.experienced lawyer can help you navigate the issue and may be able to settle the matter without setting foot in a courtroom. 


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Authored by: Stanley Montfort


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About the Author
Since the start of the pandemic, Stanley Montfort has played a crucial role in facilitating over one billion dollars worth of brownstone sales in New York City. He is a recognized expert in the city's brownstone and townhouse market, with extensive experience in both sell-side and buy-side brownstone transactions, thanks to his military and law background.

Stanley honed his real estate skills at Leslie J. Garfield, where he established the Harlem Townhouse Market, and has assisted in numerous co-ownership transactions, including more complicated deals involving SROs, seller financing, negotiating with tenants, and leaving all parties satisfied.

With a vibrant and diversified career spanning the legal, banking, and technology industries, Stanley brings a wealth of experience to help his clients achieve their real estate objectives. He applies innovative marketing strategies, strategic thinking, and utmost professionalism and integrity to every deal. As a savvy negotiator with strong analytical skills, Stanley has successfully navigated even the most challenging real estate deals to deliver the desired results.

Moreover, Stanley provides a personalized and engaging real estate experience marked by complete transparency, data-driven financial decisions, and honest conversations. He strives to earn his clients' trust and is committed to ensuring that their needs are fully understood and executed without compromise.

Originally from New Jersey, Stanley is a graduate of Fordham University, where he earned his JD and Masters in International, Political, Economy, and Development. Whether you are looking to earn top dollar for your property or find your dream home, Stanley is the no-brainer choice to help you achieve your real estate goals.