In Tuesday night’s “Page Six” report on the impending divorce between Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, buried somewhere between the news that Kardashian had retained “megawatt celebrity divorce attorney” Laura Wasser and the fact that West only stayed at his wife’s million-dollar Tahiti birthday vacation for a mere day, was a strange piece of information. An unnamed source told the Post that “Kim is trying to get Kanye to turn over the Calabasas house to her because that’s where the kids are based and growing up … She owns all the land and adjoining lots around the house but Kanye owns the actual house. They’ve both put a lot of money into renovating it.” She owns the land and lots, but West owns the house? Are Kardashian and West ensnared in a land-lease situation? (As a reminder, a land lease is a property agreement in which one party owns the land on which a building sits and the other owns the building itself.) Post-divorce, if West keeps the house, will he have to pay ground rent to Kardashian? Will the next owner, if they sell? We called up some Los Angeles real-estate experts to find out.
“The Post article isn’t worded well, so it’s a little confusing — but I see three things that could be going on,” says real-estate lawyer Eric J. Proos. “One is that the property could be held in a living trust and Kanye has a life estate on the house itself — meaning that they could have set up a trust and put properties and assets in it. Two, Kim could own all the land that the house is on and Kanye could be paying her an undisclosed amount — they’re married, so it could be like a dollar a year — for refuge there. Or third, Kim could have bought the property and Kanye could have paid for [the building and renovation] on the house itself.”
Though Proos says there is too little information to say which of the three options is most likely, he notes that it’s not uncommon for “high-net-worth individuals” to set up a trust for a property. This means that a legal agreement is established between a trustor and trustee, in which the trustor gives the trustee permission to hold the property — and the trust is given a name other than the individual’s own, affording the owner added privacy. “People in the public eye like Kim and Kanye want to have their property or assets so if they’re ever held liable for something, those assets are really hard to reach,” he says. Los Angeles real-estate agent Beatrice Stambulski confirms that, according to property records for the area, the trust setup is more likely than the property having a land lease. “Their house is in Hidden Hills and there are no land leases there,” she says. “Purchasing in a trust name is how celebrities purchase homes — it’s so the general public can’t identify where they live. It’s to protect themselves. So however their trust was set up to purchase the property, that’s probably what will determine in the divorce who gets the house.”
If the Kardashian-West home was indeed part of a trust, the details — and who owns what on the property — are not public. But while the fate of the house is undetermined, we can say with some certainty that it’s unlikely the next owner will be paying Kardashian land rent.