Sibling rivalry

Our lawyer Fiona McNulty looks at the legal issues of joint property ownership
Joint property ownership cartoon
© Malcolm Willett (
Question: I bought a two-bedroom house with my sister. A year later I married and moved out, so my sister lived there with a room-mate who paid most of my share of the mortgage.

Three years on, the room-mate has gone and my sister wants to live in the house alone. I pay half the mortgage, which I think is unfair as I don’t live there. Her argument is that, to get the same return, we need to put the same in.

She refuses to discuss the situation, sell the property, give me access to our joint account or let me get another room-mate to share with her. What is the fairest thing to do, and do I have to pay half the mortgage?

Answer: You have not said that you own the property as tenants in common and so I assume you own the property as beneficial joint tenants in equal shares, which means you will share the net proceeds of sale equally, and if one of you dies the property passes to the survivor.

It is a joint mortgage and so you are jointly liable for it. You can contact your bank to obtain copies of the statements for your joint account. If you wish to sell the property and your sister refuses to do so, you could apply to the court for an order for sale.

If your sister wishes to occupy the property, she should pay a fair market rent, which could be used to pay the mortgage, with the two of you making up any shortfall equally. In addition, your sister should pay the outgoings as any tenant would.

You could invite your sister to buy your share of the property and you could be released from the mortgage in return for your sister taking it on, provided your lender agrees. Your sister has benefited from your generosity.

It would be a shame if the situation cannot be resolved but you may need to seek legal advice to protect your interests.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors

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