Forcing Sale of a Jointly Owned Property

Jointly Owned PropertyCo-owners of real property often find themselves in situations where one or more owners wish to or have to force a sale of jointly owned property, which is resisted by other co-owners.

The courts generally speaking will grant an order forcing a sale of a jointly owned property unless in the situation of hardship, such as a mother and young children in the matrimonial home being attempted to be forced sold by the estranged husband.

Conflict over jointly owned property  is a fact of life whether it be between spouses, relatives, or business partners- at some point disputes often arise that cause one party to seek legal counsel and to take proceedings under the Partition of Property act to force a sale of the property.

(Re the Partition of Property Act,  Ryser v. Rawlings, 2008 BCSC 1050 at para. 22. I would note in particular, paras. 27-29 in Ryser to the effect that the Court must order a sale of the property if requested to do so by a co-owner and that the Court’s discretion to order otherwise is a narrow one and one which is suggested would involve significant hardship.

[24] Mr. Morris’ counsel has also referred me to Sahlin v. The Nature Trust of British Columbia, Inc., 2011 BCCA 157. Mr. Justice Frankel in that case at para. 24 described the discretion to refuse a sale as broad and unfettered and that it gives the Court the ability, having regard to the particular facts and circumstances, to refuse to order a sale where a sale would not do justice between the parties.

[25] A point of disagreement between the parties concerned the onus of proving any “good reason to the contrary.” In Zimmerman at para. 25, the Court adopted a quote from Dunford v. Sale, 2007 BCSC 1422, to the effect that the onus is on the respondent in that respect. That conclusion is contradicted somewhat by the Court of Appeal in Sahlin at para. 23. It does not appear that the Court in Zimmerman had the benefit of considering this decision, since the reasons of the Court of Appeal were issued between the date of the hearing and the issuance of reasons. In any event, although the Court of Appeal stated that there is no legal onus on the respondent in this respect, the Court did adopt language from the earlier case of Bradwell v. Scott, 2000 BCCA 576, in stating:

This language is neutral in terms of onus. It is for the court to assess the evidence and to determine whether justice requires that such an order be denied. In practical terms, it would be for those opposing the application to put before the court evidence tending to establish a good reason for refusing it.

Trevor Todd

Trevor Todd is one of the province’s most esteemed estate litigation lawyers. He has spent more than 40 years helping the disinherited contest wills and transfers – and win. From his Kerrisdale office, which looks more like an eclectic art gallery than a lawyer’s office, Trevor empowers claimants and restores dignity to families across BC. He is a mentor to young entrepreneurs and an art buff who supports starving artists the world over. He has an eye for talent and a heart for giving back.

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