Frat brothers win big in real estate

But when one gets married, lawsuit is threatened

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Editor's note: Robert Bruss is temporarily away. The following column from Bruss' "Best of" collection first appeared Sunday, April 2, 2006. DEAR BOB: About six years ago, three of my college fraternity brothers and I agreed to invest in single-family rental houses. They put up the cash and I managed our six houses, arranged for fix-up and repairs, and obtained tenants. Needless to say, we have done very well. The houses have all appreciated handsomely in market value, and we each get some annual tax-shelter deductions too. All went very well until recently when one of the "brothers" got married. His wife is not keen on his further investing. In fact, she sweet-talked him into demanding he be bought out. His equity is around $175,000. We can't afford to buy him out without selling or refinancing several houses. Unfortunately, she is a real estate lawyer and she threatens to sue us for a "partition sale" if we don't come up with the $175,000. Can she do this? What ...