Pennsylvania has an anti-blight law that is not well known among inexperienced real estate investors. The law is a way for communities to remedy neighborhood blight when a property owner refuses to clear blight or has abandoned a property. This conservatorship process is available to certain community organizations and qualified neighbors by filing a petition to take control of blighted property.
If the court grants the petition, the conservator will have the right to take possession of the property, complete repairs and sell it. The former owner could receive some proceeds of the sale, but only after deduction of all fees and expenses including the conservator’s fee, rehabilitation costs and payment of professional services used during the conservatorship process. Investors who purchase blighted property without quickly addressing the blight run the risk of losing the investment.
What should be done when two or more owners of real estate disagree on what to do with a property? Properties subject to a marital divorce or a deceased’s will are resolved through divorce court and orphan’s court respectively. But there are many other situations where co-owners cannot agree on the use of a property.
Here are some common examples:
co-investors/ developers who jointly purchased a property but now disagree on whether to rent or sell
inheritance property that was re-titled in the name of the heirs but the heirs disagree years later on how to use it
a property purchased by two people anticipating marriage but the relationship ended before marriage
former spouses who kept a property jointly-titled after divorce but later disagreed on its use
Any person who co-owns property with another person has a right to have the property partitioned through the court. Partition can mean a physical dividing, or more often, selling the property and distributing the proceeds. A physical division is not appropriate for most properties. Imagine what would happen if the court ordered the division of a one-acre lot containing a single family home. For this reason, courts often order liquidation except for properties like large tracts of vacant land.
How exactly to divide the proceeds is the more difficult part.
It can be difficult to think of the late stages of life when our once vibrant faculties are diminished or lost. It is no easy task to plan during the healthy years for a time when decision-making power is lost. The best practice is to create and regularly update a basic estate planning package with a will, power of attorney and health care directive.
But sometimes those important documents are lost, or the nominees named within are unavailable. When a health tragedy strikes that causes a property owner to become incapacitated, it becomes too late to sign a power of attorney. A person who is no longer competent to handle their legal affairs cannot nominate an attorney-in-fact no matter how serious a pending legal issue may be.
What can be done for a property owner facing a serious legal problem when the person is incapacitated and does not have a power of attorney?