Justia Lawyer Rating
Super Lawyers
Avvo Client's Choice
Avvo 10
Lawyers of Distinction
Million Dollar Advocates Forum

Chula Vista Partition Lawyers

The land of Chula Vista was discovered by the Spanish in 1796. The first home in Chula Vista was built in 1885. Today, there are about 80,000 housing units in Chula Vista. According to Redfin, in May 2023, Chula Vista home prices were up 2.7% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $804K. On average, homes in Chula Vista sell after 12 days on the market compared to 9 days last year. There were 151 homes sold in May this year, down from 196 last year. As a town with rich history, residents of Chula Vista often own property with others due to inheritance, which can lead to disputes with co-owners. Frequently, there are at least four common types of partitions actions for which an Chula Vista 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 in California?

A partition action occurs when there are two or more title holders to a piece of property, and these title holders are unable to reach an agreement on splitting the subject property. Typically, a litigant brings a partition action to have the court force the sale of or split the subject property. Therefore, when a piece of personal property is concurrently owned by several people, one of the owners may bring a partition action to have the court divide the subject property. In the past, California courts have partitioned not only real estate but also, shares of stock, cash, and businesses.

Generally, an action for partition can be brought forth by a co-owner of real property and a co-owner of personal property. Notably, a court can partition not only real property or real estate but also personal property of any kind. (CCP § 872.230(a).) The best Chula Vista 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 Chula Vista Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Recover Attorneys’ Fees in a Partition Action?

The Court may award attorneys’ fees in the partition action that are paid by a party to the action for the common benefit of all the co-owners. (CCP § 872.010.) The Supreme Court has spoken on this issue directly, holding that under former section 796, the predecessor to the current partition cost statute, “counsel fees may be allowed ... for services rendered for the common benefit even in contested partition suits.” (Capuccio v. Caire (1932) 215 Cal. 518, 528-529 (Capuccio).)

Moreover, cases interpreting those sections continue to permit the allocation of attorney fees in contested partition actions. (Forrest v. Elam (1979) 88 Cal.App.3d 164, 174.) From these authorities it is evident that the “common benefit” in a partition action is the proper distribution of the “‘respective shares and interests in said property by the ultimate judgment of the court.’ ” (Capuccio, 215 Cal. at p. 528.) This sometimes will require that “ ‘controversies’ ” be “ ‘litigated’ ” to correctly determine those shares and interests but this ultimately can be for the common benefit as well. The fact that a party resists the partition does not change this. (See Randell v. Randell (1935) 4 Cal.2d 575, 582 [“The presence and litigation of controversial issues between all the parties does not preclude the allowance of attorney's fees for services connected with such issues where such services are found to be for the common benefit of the parties.”].) A knowledgeable Chula Vista Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What Are Claims for “Contribution”?

A partition action frequently involves disputes related to the allowance for improvements by one joint owner or the other. The court may, in all partition cases, make an order for an allowance, accounting, contribution, or other compensatory judgment among the parties in accordance with the principles of equity. (CCP § 872.140.) For instance, the court may make an equitable adjustment in order to offset the use value of the property against the improvement expenses. (see Hunter v. Schultz (1966) 240 Cal.App. 2d 24, 31.)

Code of Civil Procedure section 872.140 allows the court to make such orders for compensatory adjustments for items such as common improvements, unaccounted rents and profits, and other matters where contribution may be required. (Cal. L. Rev. Comm. Comment to CCP § 872.140.) An example of these types of improvements could be for remodeling a bathroom, rebuilding a deck, or painting the outside of the house. The property must be divided in a manner that allocates an individual any part that he or she has improved or that individual's predecessor in interest, to the extent that it is practical and can be done without materially injuring the rights of the other co-owners. The determination of a division of allocation does not include the value of the improvements. (CCP § 873.220.) An experienced Chula Vista Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Ankenbrandt v. Shannahan (2009)

Code of Civil Procedure section 872.820, subdivision (b) provides that the court shall order the sale of partition property and division of the proceeds if doing so would be “more equitable” than a physical division of the property. The former provision provided for division by sale only where physical division would cause ‘great prejudice’ to the parties. Section 872.820 still favors physical division, absent proof that a sale would be more equitable. However, the revision to the provision was made because in many modern transactions, the sale of the property is preferable since the value of the divided parcels frequently will not equal the value of the whole parcel before division.

The court may weigh two types of evidence when assessing whether partition by sale is more equitable than partition in kind, a physical division of real property. First, a court evaluates whether the property is susceptible to division into parcels of roughly equal value under applicable subdivision laws. (Butte Creek Island Ranch v. Crim (1982) 136 Cal.App.3d at p. 365-67.) Second, the court considers whether division of the property would substantially diminish the value of each party's interest, and this “is a purely economic test.” (Id.) Determining whether partition by sale would be more equitable than a partition in kind is a factual question for the trial court. The Court of Appeal only reviews the trial court’s decision for an abuse of discretion in that the trial court’s decision was clearly arbitrary. Ankenbrandt v. Shannahan (2009) 2009 WL 850152 provides an example of how a Court of Appeal accesses the trial courts findings that a partition by sale was more equitable than a physical division.

In Ankenbrandt , Ivan S. Ankenbrandt and William P. Shannahan owned, as tenants in common, a property located across the street from the ocean in La Jolla, California they had purchased in 1980 for $80,000 (The Property). The Property contained an upstairs apartment and a downstairs apartment. Ankenbrandt filed an action seeking partition by sale of the Property. Shannahan opposed the action because he preferred partition in kind of the Property, which would enable him to retain the upstairs apartment for himself.

At trail, Ankenbrandt’s expert real estate appraiser testified that if the Property was converted into two condominiums, the two units could be sold separately for $825,000-$875,000. However, if the property were sold as is, it would sell for between $2.25 and $2.35 million. As a result, the trial court found it was more equitable to partition the Property by sale. The trial court believed that an equal division in kind was not feasible and the value each party would receive if the Property were sold as one would be greater than the value each would receive if divided and then each portion sold separately. Shannahan appealed the judgment.

Shannahan argued that the order was an abuse of discretion because Ankenbrandt did not present any evidence that a partition by sale would be more equitable than division in kind. The Fourth District Court of Appealed disagreed. The Court of Appeal opinioned that Ankenbrandt’s expert testimony showed that if the Property was sold in its current condition, it would garner $425,000 more than if the Property were sold as two condominium units. At trial, Shannahan failed to offer contrary expert testimony that would impeach the credibility of Ankenbrant’s appraiser expert. Therefore, Ankenbrant’s evidence at trial supported the conclusion that, even if a physical division of the Property was possible, the division would substantially diminish the value of each party's interest in the jointly owned asset.

Additionally, the Court of Appeal held there substantial evidence that the Property was not susceptible to division into parcels of roughly equal value that could be separately owned. Although Shannahan asserted that the Property could be converted into a condominium, that assertion was dependent on extensive renovations assuming zoning and permitting restrictions would not impede construction. Ankenrandt refuted that assertion with evidence that location of the property and the absence of adequate space to meet the parking requirements under applicable regulations made it economically infeasible to convert the building into condominiums as a predicate to division in kind. For example, converting the property into two condominiums would require three parking spaces under zoning restrictions. The two solutions were to obtain variance or use a car lift in the carport available. Variance is a legal process that allows a property owner to deviate from the standard zoning or land use regulations applicable to their property. Ankenrandt’s expert testified that variance was rarely granted in the high impact area where the Property was located. Likewise, installing a car lift in the car port would incur an installation costs between $15,000 and $20,000 (plus between $3500 to $4000 for the lift itself), and Shannahan's expert conceded he had never obtained approval for an application that used a lift to satisfy the parking requirements.

The Court of Appeal also asserted that even assuming the parties could have successfully navigated the legal and economic impediments, a partition order could not have resulted in separately owned parcels, because the owner of each separate condominium would have remained a tenant in common in the underlying fee interest and other common areas of the condominium project. Again, the Court of Appeal agreed with Ankenrandt that a partition by sale was a more equitable remedy than a partition in kind because the Property was not susceptible to division and division would dimmish the value of both party’s interest.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

Although partition law still favors physical division, partition by sale is often a more equitable remedy as many land parcels can’t be divided under local zonings laws. However, at the pleading stage, it’s imperative to present credible evidence that a partition by sale is a more equitable remedy to avoid a physical division. Failing to rebut the opposing side’s evidence at trial can also lead to an unfavorable result between a physical division or sale. If you are considering partition as an option, then you may benefit from good legal advice on the topic. Please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C., for an initial consultation.

Learn more here.

Contact Us Today
4590 MacArthur Boulevard
Newport Beach, CA 92660

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.