DECISION & ORDER REGARDING PETITION FOR
Plaintiff filed a Complaint for Partition with regard to real
estate owned by the parties and more particularly described
in a deed recorded in the Waldo County Registry of Deeds at
book 3292, page 12 (hereinafter referred to as "the
premises"). The Defendant filed a counterclaim asserting
his entitlement to relief under three additional theories
(breach of contract, recovery of rental payments, and unjust
enrichment). The subsequent proceedings of this Court, in
particular in the issuance of two pretrial orders on February
27, 2015 and May for 2015, identify the issue for trial as
limited to the partition action.
in this matter was held before the Court on August 31, 2016.
Based on the testimony of both parties, and the exhibits
which were admitted at trial, the Court makes the following
parties had been in a personal relationship with each other
for a number of years prior to 2009. In 2009, the parties
decided to purchase the premises in Belfast Maine.
Specifically, on January 30, 2009, the parties acquired the
premises as joint tenants. The premises were purchased for
$528, 000. $220, 000 of the purchase price was paid in cash
by the Defendant, $33, 000 was paid in cash by the Plaintiff,
and the remaining $275, 000 balance was paid from the
proceeds of a loan.
the Defendant was a citizen of the United Kingdom, he was
unable to be a signatory on the note associated with the loan
proceeds. Thus, the note was signed only by the Plaintiff.
However, the mortgage on the premises, which was executed to
secure the loan obligation, was signed by both parties.
premises were initially rented back to the seller of the same
premises for the first year after the 2009 purchase. Since
that time, the Plaintiff has lived at the premises as her
primary residence. The Defendant's actual use of the
premises has been limited to approximately three months per
year during which time he shares the premises with the
Plaintiff. The remaining 75% of the time the Plaintiff has
enjoyed exclusive use of the premises.
proceeds which have been received from income from the rental
units has been applied to outstanding expenses associated
with the premises. The expenses associated with the premises
which exceeded the rental income has generally been shared
equally between the parties, except for the monthly mortgage
payment associated with the $275, 000 loan. Early on, some of
the monthly mortgage payments were made from rental income
proceeds. For a relatively short period of time while the
Plaintiff was not working, the Defendant made some monthly
mortgage payments. For the last several years, the mortgage
payments have been made by the Plaintiff.
parties' personal relationship began to sour in March
2011. The parties have received no rental income associated
with the premises since June 2014.
not disputed that the premises at issue are not susceptible
to a physical division. Thus, an equitable partition of the
property becomes necessary. More specifically, the parties
are also not in dispute that a sale of the property is the
only reasonable method by which these premises may be
primary issue in dispute in this case centers around the
allocation of sale proceeds. Again, more specifically, the
Defendant contends that the liability for payment of the
outstanding mortgage balance due should be borne entirely by
the Plaintiff under a theory that she alone was signatory to
the note, and/or that the outstanding loan obligation
reflected her share of the original purchase obligation. The
Court is not persuaded by the Defendant's argument in
Law Court has noted in Ackerman v. Hojnowski, 2002 ME
147, ¶ 11, in a case involving an equitable
[t]he division of property held in joint tenancy should take
into account all equities growing out of that relationship.
Contributions of the parties to the property prior to the
joint tenancy, however, are not equities growing out of the
joint tenancy relationship. To allow the consideration of
contributions preceding the joint tenancy would defeat joint
ownership. (Citing Boulette v. Boulette, 627 A.2d
1017, and 1018 (Me. 1993)).
facts and circumstances of this case do not support the
Defendant's theory which would saddle the Plaintiff with
the sole responsibility for the entire mortgage loan
obligation. The original loan amount represented
over 50% of the original purchase price despite the
fact that the Plaintiff had also contributed $33, 000 in cash
toward the original purchase price. This is inconsistent with
the argument by the Defendant that the loan represented the
Plaintiffs share of the purchase price. Moreover, the reason
why only the Plaintiff was a signer of the note had at least
as much to do with the fact that the Defendant was precluded
from signing such a document based on his status as a citizen
of the United Kingdom.
decisions of the parties since the creation of the joint
tenancy as well as patterns of payments made toward the
outstanding obligations associated with premises do, however,
persuade the Court that the mortgage payments which have been
made to date equitably reflect the parties' actual usage
and benefits derived from those same premises. Thus, the
Court is not persuaded that the Plaintiff is entitled to any
initial payment from sale proceeds for ...