A complex legal chapter that requires expertise and deep legal knowledge is Chapter 224 of the Immovable Property Law. The interpretation of this law requires authentic, substantial and scientific knowledge. Its application is not only useful simply in preparing a purchase and sale contract. The important thing is that one should be able to interpret all the consequences of the law, apply them to the facts of the case and, with the methodology of legal research, apply them either in court or in the practical procedures of the land registry.

In this article we will address one of the many issues in the law, that of shares of real estate with third parties: to the problem of co-ownership of real estate in undivided shares.

Many owners find themselves trapped in such situations either because they inherited a share or shares or made a voluntary share purchase without first obtaining proper legal advice. The worst thing is that if the problem is not resolved as soon as possible, things can get even worse, especially when the co-owners increase in number, as is usually the case in inheritance cases, that is from parents to children and then to grandchildren.

The Immovable Property (Tenure, Registration and Assessment) Law, Cap. 224, includes provisions for limiting co-ownership, such as amicable settlement/distribution.

Under this procedure, immovable property consisting of one or more properties owned by two or more owners may be divided/partitioned (provided that the minimum permitted square metres are not violated) by agreement of all the co-owners. But what happens if even one owner disagrees?

The provisions of the law include Forced Separation/Division: Where the co-owners do not agree to an amicable separation/distribution, then even one co-owner has the right to request the Director of the Land Registry to request the forced separation/distribution of the immovable property held in shares, with a view to abolishing the co-ownership, as well as the division into half plots, under which the co-owner has the right to request the separation of a plot of land which he owns with another person.

There is also a Right of Option, where the co-owner of real estate can agree to sell and transfer the share to any person. If the share is sold to a third person (non-co-owner), the transfer of the share is not registered in the name of the buyer before the registered co-owners are given the right to acquire it themselves at the agreed price.

Finally, there is also the auction of undistributed property, whereby in case the property is held in shares and is undistributed (i.e. cannot be divided according to its square meters), then, at the request of one of the co-owners, a certificate of undistributed property can be obtained from the Director of the Department of Lands and Surveying (DLS) and the property can be sold at a public auction.

From the above one can conclude that the separation process is not simple but feasible. It is advisable if you are in such a situation to start the process of separation as soon as possible before things become more complicated by adding further co-owners who may come into existence through inheritance or even by transferring the shares to other persons. Examination of the legislation and expert advice is essential.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.