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Massachusetts Homeowners Find Creative Solution to Obtain Ownership of Abutting Vacant Lot

Acquiring legal title to real property can be complex, particularly if the land is old or abandoned.  In unusual situations, the knowledge of a Massachusetts real estate attorney may be beneficial to achieve your goals.  In an October 26, 2018 case, the plaintiffs sought to obtain title to the vacant, residential lot next to their property.  Current ownership of the vacant lot was unclear, as the owner named in the 1903 deed had died long ago.  The plaintiffs, however, succeeded in acquiring a 25% share of the property.  They then filed a petition in Land Court seeking a partition of the lot, naming 47 respondents who were or could be the heirs, devisees, or other successors in interest to the late owner.

Under Massachusetts law, any person, except a tenant by the entirety, owning an undivided legal estate in the land may seek a partition, with a presumption that such partition should result in the physical division of land.  The plaintiffs in the case did not intend to splinter the vacant lot, but rather, sought to use the partition statute as a means to obtain title to the entire lot, free and clear of its other owners.

After serving all of the co-owners with notice of the partition action, the plaintiffs filed a motion for default judgments against 39 co-owners who did not respond.  Collectively, these 39 individuals owned a 55% interest in the lot.  The court granted default judgments.  Eight co-owners, collectively holding almost 20% interest in the lot, participated in the proceedings.  The court determined that the plaintiffs were entitled to a partition and appointed a commissioner to make recommendations as to the division of the lot.

The plaintiffs subsequently announced that they were exploring other resolutions to keep the lot in tact.  They had purchased the interests of the eight co-owners who had appeared, bringing their interest to nearly 45%.  They then sought to purchase the interests of the defaulted owners.  In so doing, the plaintiffs attempted to recoup some or all of their expenses in bringing the partition action, which totaled nearly $30,000.

The Land Court concluded that none of the Massachusetts statutes cited by the plaintiffs allowed for the compensation of their legal expenses under the facts of the case, nor for reimbursement of the costs of their improvements to the vacant lot.  However, the court did rule that the plaintiffs could acquire ownership of the vacant lot upon payment to the defaulted owners for their interest, and payment of the unpaid costs of partition proceeding.

The land use attorneys at Pulgini & Norton understand Massachusetts real estate and its related laws.  We can provide astute legal advice concerning any aspect of your residential property.  Request a free consultation to discuss a home or condo sale, mortgage issue, title action, or other real estate matter by calling  (781) 843-2200 or submitting our website contact form online.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Homeowners Acquire Ownership Rights to Portion of Neighbor’s Lot, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published November 27, 2017

Condo Unit Owners Dispute Right to Fence, Access Property in Massachusetts Real Estate Case, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published July 10, 2017

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