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Category Archives: Real Estate Law

A woman who owns a part of a small house is engaged in a legal battle with other owners in Kaunas, Lithuania. The link is here.

It is common there that what would appear to be a single – family home is owned by several people – each owning a part. As one walks around, one sees parts renovated, parts painted, parts unpainted, and, from time to time, additions.

The woman added a separate entrance. She is seeking to ‘legalize’ it, and her neighbors in the house object.

Here is the problem. In the real world, such small houses just can’t be ‘run’ in this way. There are no “condo associations,’ and if there were, they would be too small to function. (What to do when half a house doesn’t pay because they can’t?)

The deeper problem is this. If she really owns her property, she should be able to do what she wants. To say she can’t is to say she does not own it.

Yet adding parts to houses obviously impacts, at the very least, aesthetics of the rest of the building. This impacts the value of the other units of private property in the house. It is hard to say that they should not have a veto power.

The case has a twist. They are not talking, really, about knocking it down, but in having it be recognized by the type of land registry they have there, which registers not only land but buildings and apartments and other units.

My point is both sides have legitimate interests, and there is no way of coming up with a solution which would be truly just. And my second point is that the government should put measures in place to encourage single ownership of buildings such as these. This could be done by alterations to the tax code which would favor parties seeking to purchase units within the same building. The bottom line being that one really cannot own such property in fee simple (independently, as private property), because it is just too bound up with the property of neighbors. The situation causes constant tension and a type of captivity. The government should not encourage this sort of thing. (I am sure this powerlessness and stress served the Soviets well, but it does not jibe with a yeomanry.)

I am sorry for both sides in this quarrel, and for all the others I have seen as well.