Perhaps you’ve just divorced and want to split the assets. Perhaps you’re in disagreement with your siblings about division of an estate. There are many scenarios in which you might want to sell a property, only to have the co-owner refuse. What can you do when you face that in Singapore?
Possible Ways to Sell Your Property If a Co-Owner Refuses
1. Obtain a court order for a partition of property
If you hold your property with your co-owner as tenants-in-common (i.e both owners hold separate shares in the property), it is, in theory, possible to get an order for partition so that you can own a specific part of the property and your co-owner owns the rest. This is however, seldom a practical solution for joint homeowners.
This is because if say the property is partitioned such that you own the living room and 1 bedroom, most buyers will want to be able to buy a whole unit, not just 2 rooms.
In other types of property, it may be impossible to divide the house if it will result in land plots smaller than the minimum plot size required by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Therefore, if all attempts to convince your co-owner to sell fail, you will need to apply for a court order to compel a sale.
2. Obtain a court order for a sale of property
An application for a court order to compel sale of property can be made to the High Court pursuant to Order 31 of the Rules of Court. It is done by way of an originating summons and supporting affidavit, which a lawyer can prepare for you.
The High Court is empowered to order a sale of a property even where one co-owner refuses to consent to a sale. Usually, how these orders work is that, co-owner A, i.e the co-owner that refuses to sell, is given a right of first refusal to buy over the share of co-owner B, i.e. the co-owner that wishes to sell, and a deadline by which to buy it.
If co-owner A does not have the will or the means to buy co-owner B’s share by the deadline, the property may then be sold on the open market and the proceeds divided between the co-owners.
If your property is a HDB flat
If your property is a HDB flat, bear in mind that the usual selling restrictions relating to minimum occupation periods will apply as well as the usual racial and citizenship restrictions regarding to whom you can sell the flat.
For more information on these criteria, you may refer to the HDB’s website.
What will the court consider when deciding whether to order the sale of the property?
In considering whether to order the property to be sold, the court may also take into account other factors like the possible prejudice to the party resisting an order of sale and the possible financial difficulties faced by the co-owners.
For example, if the co-owners have limited financial capacities, the proceeds from the sale of this property may be insufficient for them to purchase other properties. The court might then choose not to order the sale of the property.
On the other hand, if the court observes that the joint possession of the property would no longer serve any practical purpose to the co-owners but would simply lead to more conflicts, an order might be made for the property to be sold in the open market and neither party should sell the property by themselves.