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Even When Spent on the Property, One Cotenant Cannot Burden Another’s Interest With a Loan
Anderson v. Joseph
For years, Ms. Alda Anderson and Nero Joseph held a Maryland property as tenants in common. Ms. Anderson, upset that she had not received her share of monies collected from the rent, requested that the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County order a sale in lieu of partition. Indeed, the Court appointed a trustee to sell the property and to divide the proceeds between Ms. Anderson and Mr. Joseph according to their respective rights. It was not until after a trustee had sold the property that Ms. Anderson realized that Mr. Joseph had taken out a loan against the property for repair to the basement after flooding, totaling almost $50,000. This money was paid from the sale proceeds prior to dividing the balance equally between the two parties. Ms. Anderson filed an Exception to the Trustee’s Report of Sale, claiming that the $50,000 should have been deducted from Mr. Joseph’s interest alone.
The trustee did not respond to her Exception, so Ms. Anderson filed a Motion to Show Cause. Mr. Joseph then filed an Answer, wherein he explained the money from the loan had benefited the property, so both he and Ms. Anderson should be equally responsible. Ms. Anderson in turn argued that even if the loan was used for repairs to the house, Mr. Joseph was unable to encumber her interest in the property without her authorization. After a hearing on the matter, the Circuit Court denied Ms. Anderson’s Exception and Motion to Show Cause. However, the Court of Special Appeals disagreed with the Circuit Court, concluding the loan did not encumber Ms. Anderson’s interest in the property, so it should only have been paid out of Mr. Joseph’s share of the proceeds. The fact that the money was spent on repairs to the home made no difference. Ms. Anderson had no knowledge of the flood; she was unable to have given consent to repair damages for it.
Though Mr. Joseph was not represented by counsel and did not file a brief or appear for argument before the Court of Special Appeals, the Court discussed whether or not Mr. Joseph would be entitled to a credit for the repair, if he had preserved the argument. They concluded that he would not. A cotenant is only entitled to contribution from another cotenant for repairs when the when they are authorized or when they are necessary for the preservation of the property and the other cotenant has refused to participate in the repairs. Here, Ms. Anderson was unaware of the need for repairs, so she did not authorize the repairs nor did she refuse to repair the property. The Circuit Court was reversed, and Mr. Joseph was ordered to pay costs.
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