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Where jointly held property is sold, the sale proceeds are to be divided between the parties in accordance with their rights as determined by the court. Tenn.Code. Ann. § 29-27-217 (2005). The Court has a statutory and inherent right to adjust the equities and settle all claims between or among the parties.
Appellee Ernestine Ridley and her then-husband, Charles R. Hooten acquired a fee simple interest in the property known as 1101 Paris, Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee. The parties divorced in 1976. Following the divorce, appellee moved from the property and the husband continued to lived at the property. Appellant Clemans Watson began looking after the elderly husband, and the husband later executed a quitclaim deed on the property in favor of the appellant. As a result of the transfer, appellee and appellant became owners, as tenants in common, of the property. Shortly after the transfer of title, the husband died and the appellant retained sole possession of the property. After he received an ownership interest, the appellant used the property to secure six loans. There was no indication that the appellee was aware of these encumbrances on the property. In 2003, appellee filed a complaint against appellant seeking to quiet title, to partition the property, and for a judgment for one-half of the rents allegedly paid to appellant. Appellant filed a counterclaim against appellee, alleging that the latter had failed to contribute to the maintenance of the property, had paid no insurance, nor any taxes, and had, in effect, abandoned the property in 1976. Based upon the abandonment assertion, appellant asked the court to dismiss appellee’s petition, and to award appellant the sole interest in the property. The trial court dismissed appellee’s counterclaims, and ordered that the property be sold for partition, and out of the appellee’s half, $10,000.00 shall be paid to appellant for the maintenance and upkeep of the property. The trial court further denied appellee’s claim for rents. Appellant challenged the decision, arguing that the trial court erred in awarding only $10,000.00 on his contribution claim against appellee. In the posture of appellee, she asserted that the trial court erred in allowing appellant the $10,000.00 credit as the evidence did not support the award.
The appellate court found no error in the trial court's decision. The evidence or equities did not preponderate against the trial court's determination that the appellee should be responsible for $ 10,000 in contribution for improvements and maintenance to the property. The trial court was correct in assessing one-half of the amount of the tax liens and the penalties thereon to the appellee, as it would be inequitable to charge the appellant with the full amount of the tax liens and the penalties. Anent the second issue, the court held that the appellee was not entitled to rents for the appellant’s sole use of the property. According to the court, while a cotenant with sole possession of the property must pay rent to the cotenants for the use and occupation of the property, this allowance was predicated upon the exclusion, by the sole possessor, of his or her co-tenants from the property.