Where real property is owned by more than one person, each owner (or cotenant) has the right to possess and occupy the property and to maintain an action to oust all persons other than other cotenants. Any cotenant excluded from the property may seek damages for ouster from the other cotenant. This ordinarily amounts to his or her share of the value of the use and occupation of the property from the time of the ouster.
When the relationship among co-owners breaks down, each co-owner has the right to have the property partitioned. Real property may be partitioned in three ways: (1) physical division of the property; (2) sale of the property and division of the proceeds; or (3) court approved and supervised partition by appraisal. In most cases where a partition action is filed, the court orders the property sold, the liens and encumbrances paid off, and the proceeds divided among the owners. Many disputes among co-owners of real property can be resolved by simply pointing out the right of each party to file a partition action and that the cost of litigation will reduce each co-owner’s share of the sale proceeds.