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Cost of repairs and renovations to a co-owned (ex-spouse) home

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  • Cost of repairs and renovations to a co-owned (ex-spouse) home

    I'm not sure which forum this belongs in, here or with property law...

    Background: I own a home with my ex-wife. We were divorced just over 2 years ago, and at the time, the home was placed on the market, sat for 10 months, and just wouldn't sell for any less than a catastrophic loss, so it was leased. The divorce decree states that we each own 50% of the home and property.

    We're getting ready to put it back on the market when the renters move out, and my ex-wife recently went out to the house with her family and planted sod and repaired sprinklers. The cost of materials and "paying helpers" was over $1000, which isn't horrible, but I had estimates to have the job done professionally for only around $1250, and actually had another contractor scheduled to come out and estimate today which could possibly have been less as I was referred to him by other customers. I had told her when she brought up the idea that I would prefer to know that it was done correctly by professionals, in addition to the fact that, though she asked if I would pay half for her to have it done, I never agreed to it as she never gave any kind of estimation of what it would cost to "do it ourselves."

    The issue: I have no issue paying for half of the materials that they used, sod, wiring, mulch, etc. However, they spent $150 buying new and nice brand garden tools ($30 common shovels and rakes), tools which they likely already had, or could have been given to them if she had let me know they were needed - and I'm sure they bought because they will last far beyond this one-time job. They also spent $200 paying (feeding her 5 family members) the "help" - this one may be a personal prejudice, as part of the reason I didn't really want her family doing it is that I've seen their work, it's very sloppy and often has to be redone by professionals. In addition, my own family spent several weekends cleaning the home, pressure washing, shampooing carpets, etc after she left it a mess when she moved out and it was put on the market the first time around, and she never paid a dime for that.

    The question: Am I obligated to pay for all portions of the cost that she sent me if I didn't agree to them beforehand? It seems to me that buying new tools that clearly aren't for one-time use, and paying your family to do the job to the point that it costs nearly the same as professionals isn't right. I would like to simply return to her an itemized list of what I will pay half for, which will include all of the essential materials etc and likely be around 800. My concern is that in 2 months the renters move out and at that point we are responsible for the mortgage, which I usually write the check for, and she pays me her half... I know that she will attempt to hold the amount "hostage" and simply take it out of what she owes for the mortgage if I refuse to pay it now. What is my recourse, am I stuck simply paying half of what she had done?

  • #2
    Re: Cost of repairs and renovations to a co-owned (ex-spouse) home

    I wish to inform you that you can object to payment of half the costs. In this regard you can be held liable for only those costs which have been due and are related to house. Costs of $200 for new tools can be objected because only a cost of lease of such tools can be charged but cost of new tools cannot be charged as new tools are not just one time use in present work. Further the tools can be sold and their cost can be recovered by your ex spouse. If you had not given consent to such work then you can object because work is unauthorized. You may seek a court order to recover any amount due to you which is not paid.

    AFF

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    • #3
      Re: Cost of repairs and renovations to a co-owned (ex-spouse) home

      What you can do is not quibble at this point, for the amount is minimal compared to the value of the house, the proceeds of which will be apportioned once it is sold.

      As joint owners you both should have agreed before she unilaterally hired her relatives to do work -- without your approval.

      You have a tally of the unapproved costs and estimate do have the job done professionally and right. Lodge your protest with her in writing with request she pony up the unapproved amounts the next time her portion of the mortgage payment is due. If she does not pay, I would just add the bill and your demand letter to her in your file.

      If you plan to sell anytime in the near future,you have leverage to get your money back. You can refuse to sign the escrow papers unless and until the bill she ran up is to be deducted from her share of the proceeds.

      If you plan to hold the property for the long term,you may file your claim in small claims court.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Cost of repairs and renovations to a co-owned (ex-spouse) home

        having trouble logging in, this is CoOwner:

        This brings up a second question: I would actually REALLY like to sell the home. At this point, we know there will be a loss, we've known for over a year and a half to expect 10-15k loss, but she of course is saying she won't have her half of that (to my understanding we have to have this at sale, as this covers closing costs and a few thousand of actual difference between amount owed on the mortgage and sale price. I really don't want to lease the home for another year and continue dealing with this. Would there be any chance that going to court would force liquidation of the asset?

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        • #5
          Re: Cost of repairs and renovations to a co-owned (ex-spouse) home

          Originally posted by Unregistered View Post
          having trouble logging in, this is CoOwner:

          This brings up a second question: I would actually REALLY like to sell the home. At this point, we know there will be a loss, we've known for over a year and a half to expect 10-15k loss, but she of course is saying she won't have her half of that (to my understanding we have to have this at sale, as this covers closing costs and a few thousand of actual difference between amount owed on the mortgage and sale price. I really don't want to lease the home for another year and continue dealing with this. Would there be any chance that going to court would force liquidation of the asset?
          Yes, you could force sale. It could done by either re-opening the divorce decree (the easiest path) or filing a separate partition action. Since there is really no equity there, the former would be preferred.

          If the market is improving in your area, you may find the next months to year picks up the slack. Depending upon the gross sales price of your home, a home's value can increase $10,000 to$15,000 in a few months. TIming is everything in real estate, so you may get a chance in the months ahead to sell out and break even -- or, who knows, even make a dollar or two.

          If she is going to be knotheaded about it, you can force a sale through the court and she will not only end up with nada but have to pay out of pocket to close. It behooves her to be "nice." Maybe you can make her see the wisdom of cooperating with you and not making unilateral decisions that are costing both of you money.

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