University of Wisconsin–Madison

Thomas Mitchell Speaks to the BBC About Property Law Reform

Thomas Mitchell discussed property law and reasons for reform of particular laws in a recent British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) article. Mitchell drafted the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, which was approved by the Uniform Law Commission last summer and endorsed by the American Bar Association this spring.

The Act aims to produce fairer outcomes in how courts decide how to resolve partition actions involving family-owned common property owned under the tenancy in common form of ownership.

In many communities, such property is referred to as heirs' property. In the past, poor and minority landowners often died without a will and passed down land to an increasing number of common owners. By purchasing the interest of just one of these common owners, outside parties could force a partition sale of the entire property at a fire sale price, which stripped families of both their property and their real-estate based wealth. Such forced sales can happen without the consent of any of the other common owners.

The Act gives current owners the first right to buy out the interests of co-tenants who request a court to order a partition sale, restores the traditional preference for a division of the land over a court-ordered sale of the property, and establishes procedures to better assure that any-court ordered sale of the property occurs under circumstances designed to produce a fair market value price.

To this end, the Act requires that any court-ordered sale of the property be an open-market sale conducted by a real estate broker as opposed to a public auction utilizing the process that is used for foreclosure sales as the law in most states currently provides. Oregon, Nevada, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have each introduced bills that would enact the Act. Professor Mitchell is scheduled to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands in mid-May to testify before the legislature there as it considers its bill.

To read the original BBC article, click here.

To view a map of where the Act has been introduced, click here.

To read an earlier UW Law article on the Partition of Heirs Property Act and Thomas Mitchell's role, click here.

Submitted by UW Law News on April 21, 2011

This article appears in the categories: In the Media

Submit an Article