In a partition proceeding in Florida, an accounting must be conducted to determine whether each co-owner has paid their fair share of the expenses related to the property and to adjust their accounts accordingly. This includes expenses such as mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, and necessary repairs. The court will first determine the percentage of ownership of the property held by each party and then calculate the proportionate share owed to each owner from the proceeds of the partition for reimbursable investments. Co-owners have a mutual obligation to pay these expenses and one party’s equity should not be increased by the expenditures of the other. If a co-owner pays these obligations, they are entitled to a credit from the sale proceeds for the other co-owner’s fair share of these expenses. Goolsby v. Wiley, 547 So.2d 227 (Fla. 4th DCA 1989).
The general rule in Florida is that a joint owner or co-tenant who has exclusive possession of real property but does not receive rent or profits from it is not usually liable or accountable to the co-tenant who is not in possession for rent, unless the possession is held adversely or as a result of ouster or equivalent. However, this rule does not apply when the co-tenant in possession seeks contribution from the other tenant for the amounts the co-tenant in possession spent on improving or preserving the property, including payments for mortgages, insurance, taxes, and necessary repairs. In these cases, the claim of the co-tenant in possession will generally be offset by the reasonable rental value of the use of the property, to the extent that this rental value exceeds the co-tenant in possession’s proportionate share of ownership.
Here is an example of how the concept of offsetting a co-tenant’s claim for contributions towards the expenses of a property by the reasonable rental value of the use of the property might work:
Imagine that two co-owners, John and Jane, own a rental property together. John has been living in the property and paying the mortgage, insurance, taxes, and necessary repairs, while Jane has been living in a different location and not contributing to these expenses. The reasonable rental value of the property is $1,200 per month. John’s proportionate share of ownership is 50%, while Jane’s proportionate share is 50%.
In this case, John could seek contribution from Jane for his share of the expenses he has paid on the property. However, the court may offset this claim by the reasonable rental value of the use of the property. Since John’s proportionate share of ownership is 50%, he would be entitled to 50% of the reasonable rental value, or $600 per month. This means that Jane would only be required to pay John the difference between his share of the expenses and the reasonable rental value of the use of the property, or $600 per month – $300 per month (John’s share of the expenses) = $300 per month.
Adkins v. Adkins, 595 So. 2d 1032 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992); Goolsby v. Wiley, 547 So. 2d 227 (Fla. 4th DCA 1989); Barrow v. Barrow, 527 So. 2d 1373 (Fla. 1988).
Ouster in a Florida Partition Action
In Florida law, ouster is a term used to describe the act of one co-owner forcibly or wrongfully excluding another co-owner from possession of a property. Ouster can occur when one co-owner takes possession of the property and refuses to allow the other co-owner access, or when one co-owner takes steps to prevent the other co-owner from exercising their rights as a co-owner, such as by selling or encumbering the property without the other co-owner’s consent.
The concept of ouster can change the general rule that a co-tenant who has exclusive possession of real property but does not receive rent or profits from it is not liable or accountable to the co-tenant who is not in possession for rent. If a co-tenant has been ousted from the property, they may be entitled to receive rent or profits from the property as compensation for their loss of possession. This is because the co-tenant in possession has a legal obligation to account to the out-of-possession co-tenant for the value of the use and enjoyment of the property. Coggan v. Coggan, 230 So.2d 34, 36 (Fla. 2d DCA 1969).
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