Spiller and Mackereth co-owned a building as a tenancy
in common. They rented the building out and shared the rental
profits. The renter left, the building was vacant, and Spiller began
using the building as a warehouse. Mackereth demanded that Spiller pay
half the rental price. Spiller refused. Mackereth sued for ouster.
Spiller replaced the locks on the building, but never
explicitly denied access to Mackereth.
The Trial Court found for Mackereth and ordered Spiller to
pay $2k in back rent for use of the property. Spiller appealed.
The Alabama Supreme Court reversed.
The Alabama Supreme Court found that, absent of an
agreement to pay rent, a cotenant in possession is not liable to his
cotenant for the value of his use and occupation of the property.
Mackreth argued that Spiller had been in adverse possession
of Mackereth's half of the property, but the Court found that since they
were both legal cotenants, the only way adverse possession would
apply was if Spiller barred Mackereth from using the property.
For a tenancy in common, each tenant has a right to
occupy the property.
If a cotenant bars another cotenant from entering the
property, that's called an ouster. If there had been an ouster,
then Mackereth would be able to recover.
Alternately, Mackereth could have asked the court for partition.
The property would be sold and she would get half the profits of the sale.