The Puzzle of Joint Property Ownership: Navigating Disputes and the Actio Communi Dividundo

Jan 17, 2024 | , , | News

Due to soaring interest rates and the ever-rising cost of living, the trend of joint property purchases is on the upswing. This growing trend has however led to a rise in quarrels among co-owners.

Let’s delve into the complexities of shared property ownership and the legal recourse offered by the actio communi dividundo.

Joint Ownership

Shared property ownership entails each co-owner possessing an undivided share of the property. This entitles them to reasonable use corresponding to their ownership stake. In cases where the property generates an income, profits are distributed based on each co-owner’s proportional share. Likewise, obligations related to expenses are divided in alignment with their ownership proportions. 

Our law does however clearly distinguish between bound co-ownership, arising from other legal relationships like marital community of property, and free co-ownership, where joint property is the sole legal tie among individuals, such as siblings inheriting property jointly. 

The actio communi dividundo comes into play when co-ownership agreements are required to be terminated. 

The fundamental principles of the actio communi dividundo, as summarized in legal precedents, emphasize the following key aspects: 

  • The action applies to specific tangible jointly-owned property;
  • It enables a co-owner to demand division when they are lacking harmony;
  • Possession of the joint property by the co-owners is immaterial for this action;
  • It allows ancillary claims for personal payments associated with profits or expenses related to the joint property; and
  • Courts possess wide discretionary powers for fair division, akin to those exercised in distributing partnership assets.


In matters where relief through the actio communi dividundo is sought, Courts may assign the joint property to one co-owner, provided compensation is made to the other, or opt for a sale through auction – distributing the proceeds amongst co-owners. 

The actio communi dividundo is used in both action and motion proceedings. However, the choice between these procedures’ hinges on the presence of material disputes of fact. 

As the landscape of property ownership evolves, navigating the complexities of shared property ownership becomes paramount. The actio communi dividundo stands as a powerful legal recourse, offering a pathway to resolve disputes and untangle the complexities of joint property ownership. 

Understanding these legal principles can pave the way for smoother co-ownership experiences, ensuring equitable resolutions and fostering harmonious property arrangements among co-owners.

The content does not constitute legal advice, are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Kindly contact us on or 021 556 9864 to speak to one of our attorneys.

Zahnri Griebenow

Zahnri Griebenow

Zahnri joined CK as an associate in April 2023.

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