Selling Property as a Tenant in Common
What does it mean to be a “tenant-in-common”?
Unlike joint tenants, tenants in common hold distinct “shares” in a single piece of land, although the land is not divided physically among the co-owners. These “shares” can be assigned either to a third party or to the other co-owner(s). However, each tenant-in-common does not own any specific part of the land over another part. Instead, his interest in that piece of land attaches to any part of the land.
Selling your property by partitioning the property
Where a tenant-in-common wants to sell the property, but other co-owners are unwilling to sell, this particular co-owner may apply to court to obtain an order for partition so that he can sell his interest in the property. However, it may sometimes be difficult to implement an order for partition due to practical impossibility. For example, we cannot divide a condominium apartment or an HDB unit. In other types of property, it may also be impossible to divide the house if it will result in land plots smaller than the minimum plot size required by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Selling your property by a sale in lieu of partition
Thus where necessary or expedient, the court may order for a sale in lieu of partition. In considering whether to order a sale in lieu of partition, the court may also take into account other factors like the possible prejudice to the party resisting an order of sale and the possible financial difficulties faced by the co-owners. For example, if the co-owners have limited financial capacities, the proceeds from the sale of this property may be insufficient for them to purchase other properties. If the court observes that the joint possession of the property would no longer serve any practical purpose to the co-owners but would simply lead to more conflicts, an order would be made for the property to be sold in the open market and neither party should sell the property by themselves. In other words, decisions regarding the sale of the property should be made together.
Selling your property through en-bloc sales
In a scenario where there is an application for collective sale (en-bloc) via the Land Titles (Strata) Act, a single co-owner cannot choose to sell the property if the other co-owners disagree. This is because the law requires the person to be owner of the entire estate in order to agree to sell. However, a single tenant-in-common would not be the owner of the entire interest (as required under s 3 of the Act) but merely an owner of a distinct portion of the estate, for example, a one-quarter interest or even a one-half share of the land held in common.
Thus, all tenants in common of a particular flat will have to agree before the unit can be considered to be either in support of or in opposition to a proposed sale under sections 84E(3) and 84E(5) of the Land Titles (Strata) Act.
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