Buena Park Partition Lawyers

In 1887, James Whitaker, a wholesale grocer from Chicago purchased 690 acres, and founded the City of Buena Park with the railway development of Orange County. The exact derivation of the name Buena Park is uncertain. Local settlers referred to the area as “Plaza Buena” which means “good park” in Spanish. Buena Park is known for Knott’s Berry Farm. As of the 2020 census, its population was 81,000. TAccording to Redfin, in March 2024, the median sales price was $855,500 and homes stay on the market for 37 days. Buena Park residents who own real estate may face disputes with co-owners. Frequently, there are at least four common types of partitions actions for which a Buena Park Partition Attorney can provide sound counsel:

  • Investor-Investor shared ownership of property;
  • Boyfriend-Girlfriend share ownership of property;
  • Brother-Sister shared ownership of property; and
  • Parent-child shared ownership of property
What is a Partition Action?

A partition action is an action brought by a co-owner of a piece of real property against another co-owner, seeking to divide the property according to the respective interests of the co-owners. In order to establish a right to a partition, a party must show that they have some ownership interest in the subject property. Under Code of Civil Procedure section 872.210, any owner of an estate of inheritance, an estate for life, or an estate for years in real property where such property or estate is owned by several persons concurrently or in successive estates may bring a partition action. (CCP § 872.210.) Therefore, a co-tenant has an absolute right to partition. (Formosa Corp. v. Rogers (1951), 108 Cal.App.2d 397.) At the Underwood Law Firm, our attorneys are more than familiar with partition actions and the step-by-step process of pursuing a partition.

Generally, a partition action cannot be stopped absent a valid waiver. Virtually universally, the instances in which a court has found a valid waiver have involved some sort of written contract or adverse possession of property. As such, many parties try to stop a partition action through mediation, or a buy-out agreement. In most instances, the parties to a partition action can benefit from creative lawyering by those who are familiar with the different options for resolving real estate disputes. The best Buena Park Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

First, a partition action is filed. A partition action can be filed if one co-owner of real property or a piece of real estate wishes to sell the property or piece of real estate in question but the other co-owners or co-tenants do not wish to sell their ownership rights.

Second, the court may appoint a court referee to oversee the sale of the property in question. The sales procedure includes that all parties agree to the terms and conditions of the sale in writing. If the parties can not agree, as partition actions are usually very contested issues, then the referee that the court appointed may recommend terms and conditions to the court. Then the court will hold a hearing to decide whether or not to accept those terms and conditions.

Third, in California, the property’s value will be appraised via a third party or another property appraisal with no ties to any of the parties. While this is not required in all states, it is recommended to make sure that all parties are on the same metaphorical page as to the potential sale proceeds of the property in question.

Fourth, the referee will conduct the sale in the method most agreeable to all of the party’s goals. This can be via a public auction or a private sale. Regardless of the specific method of partition by sale, the court will determine if the sale was “fair.” If it is decided that the property’s sale proceeds had a lack of proper notice, the sale amount is not within reasonable the value of the property, or if the proceeds were unfair- the court would rule that the property will be up for sale again.

Lastly, the court will order that the proceeds of the sale, minus any court litigated or approved offsets or costs, will be distributed equitably amongst all of the co-owners or people with interest in the property. A top Buena Park Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Recover Attorneys’ Fees in a Partition Action?

Code of Civil Procedure, section 874.010 states that “[t]he costs of partition include: (a) [r]easonable attorney’s fees incurred or paid by a party for the common benefit.”

Interestingly, the costs of partition can also include reasonable expenses necessarily incurred by a party for the common benefit in prosecuting or defending other actions or proceedings for the protection, confirmation, or perfection of title, setting the boundaries, or making a survey of the property. (CCP § 874.020.)

That attorney’s fees are considered “costs” associated with a partition action is important because Section 874.040 goes on to state the “court shall apportion the costs of partition among the parties in proportion to their interests or make such other apportionment as may be equitable.” A knowledgeable Buena Park Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What Are Claims for Contribution?

Before the sales proceeds are distributed among the parties, a court-ordered accounting will determine the charges and credits upon each co-owner’s interest. These credits are taken out of the net proceeds before the balance is divided equally. (Southern Adjustment Bureau, Inc. v. Nelson (1964) 230 Cal.App.2d 539 (“Nelson”).)

“When a cotenant makes advances from his own pocket to preserve the common estate, his investment in the property increases by the entire amount advanced. Upon sale of the estate, he is entitled to his reimbursement before the balance is equally divided.” (Nelson, 230 Cal.App.2d, at p. 541, citing William v. Koyer (1914) 168 Cal.369.)

As such, a party to a partition action must produce and gather their evidence and make sure that it is presented to the court so they can receive full credit for the value that they have added to the property. While a party may have a right to these credits under the law, ultimately, they will not be counted unless they can be presented in the proper form. An experienced Buena Park Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: McEnery v. McEnery (2023)

California Code of Civil procedure Section 904.1 provides a list of appeals that may be taken in a civil action or proceeding. Notably, it also allows for an appeal from an interlocutory judgment in an action for partition that determines the rights and interests of the parties and directs a partition to be made. The following paragraphs discuss the types of considerations the courts make in deciding whether an interlocutory judgment meets the criteria for appeal in a case, McEnery v. McEnery (2023) 2023 WL 6057496.

In McEnery, Tom and Jill McEnery (husband and wife) filed suit against Tom’s brother, John McEnery seeking to partition their jointly owned Property, a vacation home in Santa Cruz. In 1980s, John purchased the Property, in which Tom and Jill later took 50% interest. The plaintiffs and the defendant made an agreement regarding the four-unit Property. Each party would have exclusive use of two units. In 2015, the plaintiffs leased the John’s two units for five years, with the option to buy out the John’s interest in the property. They agreed to an annual payment of $35,000, assuming responsibility for the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and upkeep. The agreement allowed the plaintiffs to buy the defendant's property interest without setting a fixed price; instead, the price would be decided by mutual agreement at the time of purchase. The deal required any exercise of the purchase option to be in written form, delivered to the defendant.

At trial, the plaintiffs claimed to have triggered the option to buy the Santa Cruz property by sending a letter that communicated Tom's decision to exercise the purchase option and suggested multiple approaches to determine a fair price. However, plaintiffs accused John of not consenting to any price. After their lease ended in April 2020, the plaintiffs sued John over a lease/option agreement for the Property. They alleged that John breached the agreement by not agreeing to a price for purchase and violated the covenant of good faith.

The trial court ruled against the plaintiffs on their claims for specific enforcement and breach of good faith regarding the lease/option agreement, deeming the agreement too vague and finding no breach of covenant by John. However, the court denied John’s request to evict the plaintiffs and sided with the plaintiffs on their claim for partition by sale of the Property. During the trial, the plaintiffs sought to include additional claims for promissory fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. The court rejected the fraud and misrepresentation claims due to timing but stated that “Partition by Sale will be ordered”. John appealed.

The California Sixth District Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The court stated that the judgment did not fully resolve plaintiffs’ partition claim. Therefore, the court held that it is not an appealable final judgment under section 904.1 (a)(1) of the California Code of Civil Procedure(CCP) which authorizes parties to appeal “[f]rom a judgment, except an interlocutory judgment.” As the Supreme Court has recognized, under the “one final judgment rule” (See, e.g., In re Baycol Cases I & II (2011) 51 Cal.4th 751, 756.), “an appeal cannot be taken from a judgment that fails to complete the disposition of all the causes of action between the parties…” (Morehart v. County of Santa Barbara (1994) 7 Cal.4th 725, 743.)

First, the court stated, the judgment did not determine the rights of all parties with interest in the Property. It did not indicate how the proceeds of any sale would be apportioned between the parties. The judgment also omitted any decision on the lienholder's rights despite a substantial mortgage being noted. Second, the court further noted, the judgment did not address the plaintiffs' claim for a contribution exceeding $350,000 from the defendant. Third, the court remarked, the judgment did not officially order a partition by sale, but merely stated that, “Partition by Sale will be ordered” without determining the rights and interests of the respective parties. Therefore, as the judgment did not “determine [] the rights and interests of the respective parties nor directed a partition to be made, it did not satisfy the requirement of CCP Section 904.1(a)(9), which authorizes appeals from “an interlocutory judgment in an action for partition determining the rights and interests of the respective parties and directing partition to be made.”(§904.1(a)(9).)

The court found that the cases cited by the parties, including Degnan v. Morrow (1969) 2 Cal.App.3d 358 (Degnan), did not help the appellant’s claim. In Degnan, the trial court had divided the property in question into equal shares and had rulings concerning accounting, payments of partnership debts etc, and therefore was able to consider the partition matter. Here, the court noted, significant actions remained outstanding, preventing the judgment to qualify as an appealable interlocutory judgment under §904.1 (a)(9).

Additionally, the court found that although a court might convert a flawed appeal into a request for an extraordinary writ in exceptional cases (see,e.g., Olson v. Cory (1983) 35 Cal.3d 390, 401), the plaintiffs here had not made such requests nor had they shown the extraordinary conditions that would warrant this treatment. The Plaintiffs also argued that the judgment is appealable since the partition claim is severable from their other claims. The court, however, found it difficult to see how severing would help plaintiffs as they had not appealed the trial court’s ruling in their favor. Thus, the Court of Appeal dismissed the case.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen above, the appellate courts consider various factors in determining whether they can consider an appeal on an interlocutory judgment in a partition action. As a party to a potential partition action, it is helpful to be aware of the principles and rules of partition, including those relating to the appeals of interlocutory judgments. As such, you may benefit from good legal advice on the topic. If you find yourself contemplating a partition action, or faced with defending one, then please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C. for an initial consultation.

Client Reviews
“We were in need of a real estate attorney. Eli Underwood provided excellent legal advice and services. He explained everything well and followed through with all important issues that needed attention. We found him to be reliable, courteous, patient and extremely professional. We highly recommend Mr. Underwood without any reservations.” I.S.
"I own a real estate investment company that operates across multiple states (California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and more), whenever I run into an issue that needs legal attention, Eli is my first call. I've been working with him for years. He is an amazing attorney and I highly recommend him." Thank you for your help Sir!" T.W.
"Mr. Underwood is a fantastic Lawyer with extraordinary ethics. He responds quickly, which is rare these days, and he is very knowledgeable in his craft. It was a pleasure working with him and we will definitely use his services in the future if needed. Thank you for your help Sir!" M.O.
"Eli took our case and controlled every hurdle put before us. I one time commented to him that he must love his job because it seemed that he was always available. When talking about my case to anyone I always bring up where, I believe, the other parties Lawyer tried to take advantage of my wife and me. Eli stopped him in his tracks. On top of it being easy to work with Eli, it was a pleasure to have had him represent us. We were in good hands." E.T
"We were in need of an attorney with considerable knowledge of real estate law and the legal issues related to property ownership. Eli Underwood went above and beyond our expectations. In keeping us abreast of our suit, his communication skills were outstanding. This talent was especially demonstrated when dealing with the apposing counsel. We feel this gave us a tremendous advantage over the opposing party that resulted in us reaching a successful outcome. I would highly recommend Eli Underwood as we found him to be an exceptional attorney." P.B.
"In our need for legal services we found Eli to be well informed and on top of our case and our needs. Our's was not an ordinary case as it was a case with many facets. It was a very convoluted case. There were multiple owners involved in a property dispute where one of the owners sued the rest of the owners with a Partition Suit. Needless to say Eli was instrumental in helping us resolve our differences and gained us a profitable sale all with good end results for all. If you hire Eli Underwood you will not be disappointed!" M.A.