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A cotenant is not liable to pay rent, or to account to other cotenants respecting the reasonable value of the occupancy, absent an ouster or agreement to pay.
Appellant remaindermen, who owned an undivided one-eighth interest in a disputed tract, filed an action that sought an accounting of their claimed fractional interest in the net rent received by the appellee life tenants from lot rentals in their mobile home park. The appellee life tenants owned the undivided seven-eighths of the property. The trial court granted the accounting, but required the remaindermen to pay reasonable rent for the lot that they occupied. The remaindermen appealed the order requiring them to pay rent, arguing that absent an agreement between co-tenants, an occupying co-tenant was not liable to a co-owner for rent.
Were the remaindermen obligated to pay seven-eighths of the reasonable rental for the use of the lot they occupied?
The court held that the trial court correctly ordered an accounting and recovery of rent. However, the trial court erroneously concluded that the remaindermen were obligated to pay seven-eighths of the reasonable rental for the use of the lot they occupied because a co-tenant was not liable to pay rent, or to account to other co-tenants respecting the reasonable value of the occupancy, absent an ouster or agreement to pay. There was no lease or any other agreement between the parties. The alleged ouster by the remaindermen was not characterized by their exclusive control of the entire property at issue; therefore, there was no basis for imposition of rent for the remaindermen's occupation of a fractional portion of the premises.