Q: I bought a house with a friend back in 2004. We have since parted ways and the house is paid off. She left over 2 1/2 years ago and moved to another state and left me with all the taxes and upkeep of the house. I want to get her name off the house but do not know how to do that. We have no contact with each other. She has changed her phone number and I have no idea where she is living other than in Florida. I have been putting a lot of money into keeping the house and paying off the back taxes so would really like to just have my house in just my name. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: No matter how you are on the deed-as joint tenants or tenants in common-you are stuck unless you can get her to sign a new deed transferring ownership out of her name. I would try to locate her even if you need to hire a private investigator and see how much she wants. Perhaps she needs money and you can buy her out at a reasonable price. If she is unwilling, you can hire an attorney to commence a real estate partition action, which is expensive. However, if you start one, she may not have the money or want to spend the money to defend, and be more inclined to settle.