Spiller v. Mackereth
334 S.2d 859 (1976)

  • 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.