Joinder and the legal standing of co-owners of a property to take legal action

The Supreme Court handed down judgement no. 105/2022 on 8 February 2022, in which it analyses the case of a claim for termination of a purchase contract due to non-payment of the deferred price, with a debate on standing to sue given that the claim was filed by only one of the two vendors, who were married and had divorced after the sale but before the claim.

Interestingly, the solution offered by the courts was different in each of the three instances:

  • In the first instance, the judge upheld the claim on the grounds that the plaintiff acted for the benefit of Joint Owned Property.
  • In the second instance, the Provincial Court reversed and dismissed the claim on the grounds of lack of standing because there is Supreme Court case law which requires that the action for termination of the purchase contract must be explicitly brought by all the co-owners.
  • In the third instance, the Supreme Court amended this interpretation, in that it held that a vendor who intends to assert his rights cannot be deprived of judicial protection. The decision given is that the vendor must sue both the defaulting buyer and the other seller (his ex-wife), in order to have an appropriately-established procedural relationship.

The Supreme Court’s decision is reasonable because it allows the vendor who wants to sue to do so even if he does not have the agreement of the other vendor, but he is obliged to sue both the purchaser and the other vendor, so that the latter can express her opinion in the lawsuit.

It is worth noting that the final decision of the court is to set aside the two previous judgements, to send the proceedings back to the filing of the lawsuit, and that the plaintiff be granted a period of time to broaden their lawsuit and also direct it against the other vendor (his ex-wife).

It should be noted that the judgment does not award costs because the court considered the case to be complex and uncertain.

The solution provided by the Supreme Court is highly interesting as it shows that the complexity of this type of situation in cases of co-owners depends on the action brought and the difficulty in deciding the best litigation strategy; there have been different judicial interpretations in the same lawsuit and nullity of two judgments due to the disparity of criteria applied.

Antoni Faixó
Disputes Area