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What you need to know about establishing ownership through property taxes

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2022 | Partition Actions

One of the conflicts that can arise between co-owners of a piece of real estate has to do with who actually has a claim to the land. After all, if the other party is not actually a co-owner, there would be no need to resolve your disagreement over what to do with the property. Only you would be entitled to make that decision.

You might think that one way to show that a house, commercial property or other piece of real estate belongs to you alone is through property taxes. If you have been the only one to pay the taxes on the controversial property since inheriting it several years ago, it can seem like proof that you have the sole legitimate ownership claim. But that is not true in Virginia.

Taxes do not equal ownership

Paying taxes on a property does not, by itself, give you the right to claim sole ownership. For example, an adult child who pays the real estate taxes on their parents’ house cannot later try to take ownership of the house away from Mom and Dad. Neither does it work for taking ownership away from the landlord to your home or business premises. It takes more to take away someone else’s ownership claim against their will, such as adverse possession (which takes years and is very difficult to achieve).

A better alternative

If you have an intractable dispute with a relative or other co-owner over whether to sell inherited property, a partition action may be the best solution available. This involves presenting your case to a judge and having them decide whether to proceed with the sale.