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Co-ownership of land

MAY 10, 2019

Dear PAO,
My father and his sister Jean inherited a one-hectare farmland from
their parents. My father died in 2002 and my Aunt Jean died single in
2003. In 2000, Aunt Jean sold her share to me. In 2004, I occupied an
area of almost 5,000 square meters and built a building on it. My only
brother communicated to me his desire to divide the land equally
between us. I told him that we could not equally divide the whole
hectare because Aunt Jean sold her share to me. I presented to my
brother the deed of absolute sale that Aunt Jean and I signed, but he
insisted on his claim and said that the sale was invalid because our
father did not give his consent to the sale. Is my brother correct?

Dear Jeacille,
In the absence of partition or division between your father and your
aunt, a co-ownership exists on the farmland that they inherited from
their parents. This is in consonance with Article 484 of the New Civil
Code of the Philippines, which states that “there is co-ownership
whenever the ownership of an undivided thing or right belongs to
different persons.”
Correlative thereto, Article 493 of the same code states:

Each co-owner shall have the full ownership of his part and of the
fruits and benefits pertaining thereto, and he may therefore alienate,
assign or mortgage it, and even substitute another person in its
enjoyment, except when personal rights are involved. But the effect of
alienation or the mortgage, with respect to the co-owners, shall be
limited to the portion, which may be allotted to him in the division
upon termination of the co-ownership.”
Thus, your aunt may validly sell her proportionate share of 5,000
square meters. In the case of Tabasondra, et al. vs Constantino, et al.
(GR 196403, Dec. 7, 2016), the Supreme Court through Chief Justice
Lucas Bersamin stated:

“x. Under a co-ownership, the ownership of an undivided thing or

right belongs to different persons. Each co-owner of property which is
held pro indiviso exercises his rights over the whole property and may
use and enjoy the same with no other limitation than that he shall not
injure the interest of his co-owners. The underlying rationale is that
until a division is made, the respective share of each co-owner cannot
be determined and every co-owner exercises, together with his co-
participants, joint ownership over the pro indiviso property, in
addition to his use and enjoyment of the same.

“Although the right of a heir over the property of the decedent is

inchoate as long as the estate has not been fully settled and partitioned,
the law allows a co-owner to exercise rights of ownership over such
inchoate right. x:

“In the instant case, Laurencia was within her hereditary rights in
selling her pro indiviso share in Lot 2798. However, because the
property had not been partitioned in accordance with the Rules of
Court, no particular portion of the property could be identified as yet
and delineated as the object of the sale. Thus, interpreting Article 493
of the Civil Code providing that an alienation of a co-owned property
‘shall be limited to the portion which may be alloted to (the seller) in
the division upon the termination of the co-ownership,’ the Court said:

“…Pursuant to this law, a co-owner has the right to alienate his pro-
indiviso share in the co-owned property even without the consent of
the other co-owners. x”
Applying the above-cited decision in your situation, your aunt validly
sold to you her proportionate share of the farmland. Thus, your
brother’s claim that she cannot sell her share without the consent of
your father is without legal basis. You and your brother may divide
equally the proportionate share (5,000 square meters) of your father.