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Alhambra Partition Lawyers

During the mid-19th century, the City of Alhambra was founded as a suburb of Los Angeles. The land's owner, Bernardo Yorba, named the city after his daughter's favorite book, Tales of the Alhambra, by Washington Irving. Alhambra was later incorporated on July 11, 1903. According to Redfin, In June 2023, Alhambra home prices were down 10.7% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $840K. On average, homes in Alhambra sell after 29 days on the market compared to 26 days last year. There were 28 homes sold in June this year, up from 27 last year. Known as the "city of homes," many of the homes in Alhambra have historical significance with a variety of architectural styles. Today, Alhambra's housing market is very competitive and those who jointly own homes and feel the need to sell may run into disputes with co-owners. There are at least four different instances where an Alhambra Partition Lawyer can be helpful:

  • Boyfriend-Girlfriend co-ownership of property;
  • Sibling-Sibling co-ownership of property;
  • Parent-Child co-ownership of property; and
  • Investor-Investor co-ownership of property;
What Is a Partition Action in California?

A partition lawsuit requires real estate to be sold regardless of the requests of the other title owners. The purpose of a partition action is to permanently end all disputes and remove all obstacles to the free enjoyment of land by one person. (McGillivray v. Evans (1864) 27 Cal.92.) These types of actions can be brought for all types of real estate from houses to farms to office buildings to apartment buildings. Similarly, partition actions are available all types of ownership situations from joint tenants to tenants-in-common to partnership property to property jointly owned by former spouses.

Historically, the term "partition" comes from the basic word to break into "parts" as in physically dividing real estate in half. For example, if two siblings inherited ten acres of farmland, the property could historically be divided into five acres a piece for each of them. As most people now live in single-family homes, which cannot simply be "split in half," courts will instead order that the property be sold and the proceeds, or equity, be "split in half." The best Alhambra Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

Under the Partition of Real Property Act, the court instead appoints an appraiser to do the heavy lifting. The new statute states that the court “shall determine the fair market value of the property by ordering an appraisal.” (CCP § 874.316.) The court doesn’t have to be the one to order the appraisal, but this is only if all the co-owners agree to a different method of valuation. 

If, however, an appraisal occurs, it shall be conducted by a disinterested third-party real estate appraiser licensed to determine the fair market value of properties. After the appraisal is conducted, parties may file objections to the value and can even offer additional evidence of value to the court. 

After the valuation is complete, parties will be introduced to the key feature of the new statute: the buy-out option. If a co-owner requests a partition by sale, then the court will notify the other co-owners that they may buy all the interests of the cotenant that requested the partition. (CCP § 874.317.) 

This is, essentially, a right of first refusal. The co-owners who don’t want the property sold now have the option to simply buy out the requesting party. Additionally, the buy-out price will be based on the property’s valuation, determined earlier in the litigation. And if one or more parties exercise the buy-out, then the court will reapportion ownership percentages based on the price paid.  A top Alhambra Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Mediate a Partition Action?

Generally, anyone considering filing a lawsuit should consider all of their alternatives, including an informal resolution of the problem. This can take the form of a discussion with the other owner or owners about agreeing to sell the property, negotiating with the co-owner to create a formula to divide the proceeds from the sale, or retaining a lawyer to engage in a mediation with the other owners.

Throughout the partition process, and even on the day of trial, any of the owners can make an agreement about the sale of the property. This can happen through a phone call, through negotiations between the parties' lawyers, or through a mediation session with a retired judge or trained mediator. There are many benefits from a mediation session, including confidentiality provisions contained in the law in Evidence Code sections 1115 through 1129.

Specifically, Evidence Code section 1119, subdivision (a), provides "no evidence of anything said or any admission made for the purpose of, in the course of, or pursuant to, a mediation or a mediation consultation is admissible or subject to discovery, and disclosure of the evidence shall not be compelled in any arbitration, administrative adjudication, civil action, or other noncriminal proceeding in which, pursuant to law, testimony can be compelled to be given." A knowledgeable Alhambra Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What Are Claims for “Contribution”?

Under the law, a property owner can make a claim for contribution for anything that they have expended for the common benefit of all the parties as it relates to their jointly-owned property. Code of Civil Procedure section 874.410 states that “the court may, in all cases, order allowance, accounting, contribution, or other compensatory adjustment among the parties according to the principles of equity.” For example, the credits can include expenditure in excess of the co-tenants fractional share for necessary repairs and improvements that enhance the value of the property. (Wallace v. Daley (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1028, 1035-1036.) Similarly, payments for interest, taxes, and insurance made by any co-tenant could be the subject of a reimbursement claim. (Hunterv. Schultz (1966) 240 Cal.App.2d 24.) An experienced Alhambra Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Bi v. Zong (2014)

Code of Civil Procedure section 872.10 provides that provides that parties with concurrent interests in property have the right to partition and the court shall order that the property be divided among the parties in accordance with their interests in the property. However, as shown in Bi v. Zong (2014) 2014 WL 72838, a party in a partition action can appeal a partition order on the grounds that ownership interest were erroneously allocated.

In Bi v. Zong (2014) 2014 WL 72838, appellant Cynthia Bi (“Bi”) appealed from a judgment entered into on December 15, 2011 that dissolved a business partnership between herself, her husband (Min Hwa Chung (“Chung”)) and another couple, Respondents Guiqin Zhong (“Zhong”) and Guoliang Li (“Li”) (collectively “Respondents”). Appellant Kevin Chung (“Kevin”), the son of Bi and Chung, also challenged the partition on the grounds that it was incorrect as to the ownership percentages.

Bi and Chung entered into a partnership with Respondents to purchase real property commonly known as 1132–1136 Sunset Boulevard in the City of Arcadia (the “property”). The initial plan was for each party to contribute or finance their own share of an equal, 50–50 ownership in the property to develop condominiums. Respondents contributed a larger percentage and essentially financed Bi and Chung.

In September 2009, Bi and Chung filed the instant action against Respondents alleging breach of contract, negligent and intentional misrepresentation and unjust enrichment arising from problems and delays in the construction on the property and the use of funds intended for the construction. Li and Bi reached a settlement agreement that stipulated that Zong and Li shall recover from Bi and Chung $83,800.49 to be paid 90 days after the subject subdivision of the property was approved and that the court shall retain jurisdiction to appoint a referee to effect a physical partition of said real property.

On December 15, 2011, the trial court signed a judgment prepared by Respondents' counsel that ordered the property to be partitioned so that Respondents each received a one-half undivided interest as tenants in common in one unit of the condominium plan and, on the other hand, Bi received a one-half undivided interest, Xinan received a one-fourth undivided interest and Kevin received a one-fourth undivided interest as tenants in common in the second unit of the condominium plan. After motions for a new trial were denied, Bi and Chung appealed.

On appeal, Bi contended that the trial court abused its discretion by performing an accounting at trial rather than referring the accounting to an accountant and that the monetary award was based on an incomplete and defective accounting report from Respondents' expert. The Court of Appeal rejected Bi’s contention. The Court of Appeal noted that whether to refer the accounting to an accountant is a matter entirely within the discretion of the trial court to determine whether it’s necessary or not. Bi did not indicate she moved the trial court for a reference to an accountant. Additionally, deficiencies in the Respondent’s expert accounting testimony would not have been known till the trial was underway. Therefore, the trial court did err by not by not referring the matter to an accountant.

Bi next contended that the trial court erroneously excluded relevant evidence of credits to which Bi was entitled in the accounting report at trial. The Court of Appeal agreed. The Court of Appeal explained that the most problematic aspect of Respondents' expert's analysis at trial was that it tracked four categories: partnership-related expenses, income from tenants, contributions from Bi and Chung, and contributions from Respondents. The analysis did not, track the capital balance in the partnership's joint account. Thus, the expert's analysis did not determine if there was a balance remaining in the partnership account that should be credited to parties. The Court of Appeal found the expert analysis troubling because it merely summarized Li's spreadsheet records and did not, other than a few random checks, attempt to verify the accuracy of Li's entries. At trial, however, it was clear that a number of the entries were incorrect. Specifically, Bi made $27,000 in payments on behalf of the partnership that was credited to Li without supporting documentation. As a result, the Court of Appeal found that the Respondents’ expert’s testimony was not supported by evidence in the record.

In response to Kevin’s allegation that the partition ownership percentages were incorrect, the Respondents contended that Kevin lacked standing because his arguments concern the accounting and his interests were not affected by the accounting. The Court of Appeal agreed that to the extent Kevin challenged accounting-related issues and problems with the construction project undertaken by the partnership, Kevin did not have standing. However, the Court of Appeal pointed out that Kevin challenged the partition and the division of ownership. The judgment decided his fractional ownership interest in the property, so he was an aggrieved party and had standing for non-accounting contentions. Regarding the ownership allocation, the partition judgment provided that Bi received a one-half undivided interest, Xinan received a one-fourth undivided interest, and Kevin received a one-fourth undivided interest as tenants in common in the second unit of the condominium plan. At oral argument, Kevin represented that this division was erroneous as to the Bi family and should have been divided in equal thirds among Bi, Kevin and Xinan, with Chung having no ownership interest. The Court of Appeal agreed as to the ownership interests among the Bi family members.

The Court of Appeal ultimately reversed as to the partition only as to the ownership interests among the Bi family members and affirmed the remaining interest. The issue of accounting was remanded for a new trial to decide which party owes what amount to the other from the partnership.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

It’s important to have counsel that provides the necessary information and arguments to ensure that the ownership percentages in a partition action are accurate. If you are thinking of initiating a partition action or are investigating appealing a partition action using new representation, you may benefit from legal advice on how best to establish accurate ownership interests and percentages. Please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C., for an initial consultation.

Learn more here.

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