Dispute Over Home Ownership
Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A
REM #LAW 718
By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Summary: A reader purchased a home with the
help of her father and he has controlled all mortgage and tax payments. Now
she would like to take sole ownership of the home but her father refuses. Ilyce
helps the homeowner to negotiate with her father.
Q: Eight years ago, I bought a house using money my grandmother left me.
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I wasn’t able to get a loan in my name only, so my dad went on the loan
with me. He is also listed on the title of the house along with me, although
he has not put any of his money into my house.
I make all the payments, pay the taxes, and pay for the repairs. My boyfriend
would like to pay off the loan for me and get the title in my name only. My
dad refuses to let us do this.
My dad has insisted I write the check out each month to him not to my lender.
He insists I send him the money for the property taxes and he pays it out of
the money I send him. He refuses to even talk about me paying off my house and
quit claiming the deed over to me. He says it's not a good idea, but won't tell
me why. He only says that he is protecting me.
Do I have any legal rights? If I have to hire a lawyer, do I have a case? All
the money in my house is mine. He would have to lie in court to say otherwise.
What can I do?
A: It’s unfortunate that your father does not recognize that you have
achieved your age of majority and your independence.
While one could make certain assumptions regarding your father’s intentions,
let’s think about why he could be acting this way. Perhaps his intention
is to help safeguard the cash you received as an inheritance, and kept in the
family for you to use in your future, not commingled with money from your future
spouse or other people.
But what seems odd about your situation is that he doesn’t even trust
you to make the mortgage payments or the tax payments. While he may be protecting
his own credit by making sure the payments are made and that they are paid on
time, he appears to be treating you like a child, particularly if you have sent
him the payments on time over the past eight years.
By now he should have been able to determine that you’ve reached a point
of financial maturity that would enable you to take care of your finances. He
may not like it, but it may be time for him to let you make your own financial
decisions. He may be uncomfortable about having your boyfriend pay off the loan
and, perhaps, convince you to put his name on the title to the home.
Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin. It’s possible that
your father isn’t being selfless in his desire to keep total control over
your finances and this asset. It’s possible that he’s realized that
the house is worth a lot of money and wants some of it for himself.
With any luck, this isn’t the case, but you should prepare yourself for
Hopefully you’ve kept a written record of all the payments you’ve
made to your father. And, hopefully, you’ve made sure that all of those
payments made their way to the mortgage company and tax assessor.
It’s important that you have that documentation. You’ll need to
have proof that you have made all of these payments and that the cash has not
come from your dad to pay the mortgage and taxes.
Even if you can prove that you’ve made all the payments, your father
may still have some rights to the home – rights he may not want to give
How was the home titled when you bought it? Do you know if you own equal shares
of the home or if you own it jointly without a designation of what you and your
If the home was purchased with your dad as a 50 percent of the property, you
will have an uphill battle to prove that he doesn’t own any part of the
home. If you were both designated owners of the home in joint tenancy, you have
an easier time proving that his name was placed on title only for convenience
sake to obtain the mortgage. Nonetheless, he did help you get the mortgage and
your father can claim some value in that.
If you can’t sit down with your father and convince him to let you go
your own way with your finances and with your home, your only alternative would
be to sue your dad in a partition suit to claim your share of the home or your
entire share in the home.
You’ll need to talk to an attorney in your state who can look up the
case law on this issue, to determine whether your father has any right to the
home. While you may have one view, your father may have another. After eight
years, the memory of why each of you entered into the purchase may have changed.
Each of these views will become important in determining what each of you might
get if the property was spit up by a judge.
If you and your dad don’t have anything in writing that states your father
was facilitating your purchase of the home and did not expect to gain financially
from having his name on title, you will to prove these facts. You will have
to make sure that the laws in your state provide that under these circumstances
your father would not be entitled to anything from the sale of the home or in
the partition suit.
Partition law suits can be time consuming and expensive. Hopefully, it won’t
come to that.
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce
R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your
Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for
them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022
or contact them through Ilyce’s website www.thinkglink.com