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Questions on Common Ownership

Common ownership is a term used when a property is collectively owned by two or more people. Under this kind of arrangement, the property isn’t under any one person’s name but is in the names of all the persons who own it. For example, Mississippi condominium law says that in a typical condominium project, an owner of a unit will own 100% of the unit. Apart from this, the owner also has a percentage interest in the common areas of the project along with other owners. There are multiple types of common ownership, including joint tenancies, tenancies in common, and tenancies by the entirety.

Listed below are a few questions answered by the lawyers on common ownership.

As per a property deed, two married women own a piece of property that has two houses on it and their husbands own two adjoining lots of land. The new law says that up to three undersized lots that are held in common ownership need to be merged. Would these properties be considered as having common ownership?

When a person is identified in a property deed as "a married woman" or "a married man", it does not automatically convey any title or interest in the property to his/her spouse. It shows that despite the person being married, he/she owns this property separate from the spouse. Based on this, there would be no common ownership between the lots.

This means that the two women own one lot and the two men own two lots. Thus the new law doesn’t apply at this stage. It would only apply if one of the spouses dies and the other obtains ownership of one of the other lots from the spouse's estate.

My friend and I bought a condo in Chicago 29 years ago. The lawyer said that in common ownership, either party could sell their share in the property, while in joint ownership both parties had to agree before doing this. After my friend died, the lawyer changed the power of direction to the survivor. This was not what we had wanted but the "heirs" are now demanding their share. The title company won’t alter the trust agreement, because the original attorney, who also died, did not change the trust agreement from being co-owners to joint owners. What can I do?

There’s not much you can do now that your friend has passed away. Any changes should have been made before he died. You may be able to sue the now deceased attorney's estate for negligence.

We are part of a residential community in Florida with 110 single family homes. As we are short of board members for the HOA, we want to dissolve it and make it run like a regular neighborhood subdivision that isn’t ruled by anyone other than city and county regulations. How can we do this?

Dissolving the HOA may not be so simple. You would likely need a court order to do it. There are no formal guidelines for doing this as Florida has not adopted the Uniform Common Ownership Interest Act. It would be sensible to hire an attorney to complete this process.

Homeowners and property owners who are part of a residential development that share common property usually form a common ownership community association. The main responsibility of this organization is to protect the property and preserve the nature of the community. All property owners automatically become members of this association. They also have the obligation to contribute towards common expenses, possess the rights to use the common facilities and grounds, and share responsibility for governance.
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