Owning property is not easy, especially when you have to share ownership with multiple individuals. Co-ownership can present challenging issues, especially when one owner wants to make renovations or sell the property. This case examines a dispute among family members involving property in the Parish of St. Bernard in Louisiana.
The plaintiffs, including Charles Gettys, Jr., and defendants, including William Gettys, each had a one-fifth interest in the at-issue property. The plaintiffs sued to have the property sold and the proceeds divided among the five co-owners. William responded, claiming after Hurricane Katrina, the defendants said they no longer wanted to have an interest in the property and did not want to spend any more money on the property or repairs. William claimed he completed a property renovation and moved into the house following Hurricane Katrina. William claimed before Hurricane Katrina that he had agreed with Charles that they would renovate the property together and then sell it. Then, they would split the money they made from the sale. The renovations purportedly cost $46,000. William claimed Charles had agreed to split the renovation costs with him.
However, Charles had not paid for his share of the renovations. William argued Charles owed him his share of the total cost of the repairs and renovations. After trial, the court ordered the parties to sell the property via auction, at a $50,000 minimum bid, or through a private sale, with the first $48,476 of the proceeds to go to William to reimburse him for the renovations he carried out in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
William appealed and argued the court’s judgment was contrary to law. He also argued that the trial court had erred in not awarding him reimbursement for his renovations to the property before Hurricane Katrina or for the subsequent improvements he had made.
Under Louisiana law, because this house could not be divided in kind between the five co-owners, it was subject to being sold and having the proceeds divided among the five co-owners. See La. C.C. art. 811. Here, the appellate court explained the co-owners had agreed before Hurricane Katrina to renovate and sell the at-issue property and then split the proceeds. Before the renovation, they thought the property’s value was $67,000. They agreed Charles and William would finance the renovations and split the proceeds above $67,000.
However, at trial, William could not prove the costs of the renovations from before Hurricane Katrina because his receipts were lost in the flood. He and his expert estimated the cost of the pre-Hurricane Katrina renovation at $46,000. The trial court concluded William had not presented sufficient evidence to establish he was entitled to reimbursement for these pre-Hurricane Katrina renovation costs. Further, the trial court had broad discretion in equitably portioning property among co-owners. See Slimp v. Sartisky. Therefore, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
If you are a co-owner of the property, it is important to consult with a good attorney before making renovations or trying to sell the property so you understand what you are legally entitled to do as a co-owner. A good lawyer can help you understand whether you can be reimbursed by the other co-owners of the property for renovations and repairs you complete.
Article Written By Berniard Law Firm
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