You fell in love. Bought a house. Broke up. Can you force your partner to sell?
Selling your home can be complicated and costly when a relationship falls apart. Consider a contract when you buy to avoid expensive court proceedings.
Pascale Vaudrin and her boyfriend Glenn Caron bought a house together in Clarence-Rockland, just east of Ottawa. They took title as joint tenants, meaning that if one died, the property would automatically go to the other.
This January, it was their romance that died and the couple split up. Vaudrin moved out of the house and wanted to sell. Caron continued to live in the home and would not agree to the sale.
Vaudrin hired a lawyer, went to court and brought an application for partition. The application asked the judge to order Caron out of the house and the home sold. That way Vaudrin would be repaid everything she had contributed to the purchase, her lawyer argued, including carrying costs.
Caron represented himself in court. He wanted an adjournment to gather proof of his financial contribution to the house, but said he was not against selling. He also said he would need time to move out.
Caron wanted to use the services of a local do-it-yourself real estate company called Grapevine to sell the home, while Vaudrin wanted to use a traditional Coldwell Banker realtor in Ottawa.
In a decision released on August 19, Master Calum MacLeod of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ordered Caron to leave the home by November 30 and that the property be listed for $415,000 with Coldwell Banker, not Grapevine. He noted that Grapevine was more of a “do it yourself service,” that would require greater involvement and co-operation between both parties.
Clients ask me if there is anything they can do if they have taken title as joint tenants with their partner or spouse and are now not getting along. The good news is that you can break a joint tenancy, without much expense, by registering a separate document on title. This is what Vaudrin did before going to court. Ask your lawyer for help.
Clients also wonder what there options are if they want to sell their home but their partner or spouse is refusing.
If it is a matrimonial home, it doesn’t matter if your spouse is on the title or not; they can still prevent you from selling. This is true even if they paid nothing towards the initial purchase of the house.
In most cases, if there is no agreement beforehand, it will take an expensive court proceeding to either remove someone from the home, or get an order forcing the sale to occur.
It is best to consider having a contract with your partner signed at the time you buy a home that sets out clearly what will happen if the relationship breaks down. It could save you costly court proceedings later.
Mark Weisleder is a Toronto real estate lawyer.