Press Releases

City Bar Applauds Governor and Legislature on Passage of the Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Act

The New York City Bar Association applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo, bill sponsors Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz and the New York State Legislature for enacting the NY Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Act (“NY UPHPA”). This law extends crucial protections to owners of ‘heirs property,’ who are increasingly targets of predatory investment practices.

For groups of two or more individuals who hold real property as tenants-in-common, there exists a judicial process by which that real property may be divided. The process is intended to cover those cases in which tenants-in-common cannot agree on a method of division. However, speculators have used the existing law as a sword to divest homes held by multi-generational families (often in historically minority neighborhoods) who have acquired their interests through inheritance. Frequently referred to as “heirs property,” such properties are often unmortgaged and, because of gentrification, can be extremely valuable. Many of the heirs are low income, do not have the benefit of legal and financial counsel to protect their interests, and are subject to opportunistic, or even predatory, practices by real estate developers and speculators.

The NY UPHPA is intended to help preserve intergenerational family wealth held in real property and to keep homes and communities intact by establishing a number of basic due process protections – such as improved notice, appraisal, arms-length brokered sale, and right of first refusal – to protect family homes from predatory real-estate and development practices. The intent of the law is not to make partition proceedings unduly difficult or expensive, but to provide reasonable, basic procedural protections for the legitimate expectations and economic rights of the co-tenants. Importantly, the NY UPHPA was crafted to protect the owners of “heirs property” not only in rural, but also in urban areas, where partition problems have recently gained attention.

The City Bar Justice Center’s Homeowner Stability Project has seen a significant uptick in predatory real estate activity that divests low-income and legally unsophisticated heirs property owners from their homes and accumulated intergenerational wealth using existing partition law.

“This new law will protect some of New York’s most vulnerable families from displacement and potential homelessness, balance the playing field to preserve communities and discourage targeted predatory activity,” said Scott Kohanowski, the director of the Homeowner Stability Project.

The City Bar’s report on the UPHPA, issued by the Commercial Law and Uniform State Laws Committee, the Housing and Urban Development Committee and the Pro Bono and Legal Services Committee, can be read here: