Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) section 872.430 - Claim for Compensatory Adjustment

The California Partition Law begins at Code of Civil Procedure section 872.010 and ends at Code of Civil Procedure section 874.323. Section 872.430 allows the defendant in a partition lawsuit to make claims for contribution or compensatory adjustments. This statute is important because it allows the defendant to potentially recoup certain contributions he made to the property if the property is eventually sold.

Code of Civil Procedure section 872.430 states

The answer may set forth any claim the defendant has for contribution or other compensatory adjustment.

(Amended by Stats. 1976, c. 73, p. 110, § 6.)

What Is an Example?

“Shawn” and “Julie” are an unmarried couple who bought a house in Los Angeles together as joint tenants. They move in and begin living together in the new home.

While they live together on the property, they generally share the expenses equally. Shawn, however, pays for several improvements to the garage out of his own pocket.

Eventually, the couple’s relationship deteriorates. Shawn and Julie cannot come to an agreement over what to do with the property. Julie wants to sell the property and move on with her life, so she sues Shawn for partition by sale.

In Shawn’s answer responding to Julie’s complaint, Shawn describes the improvements he made to the garage that he alone paid for. Shawn claims that he should be fairly compensated for his contributions to the property. This is allowed under CCP § 872.430, and the court may consider Shawn’s contributions when determining how to distribute sale proceeds if the property is sold.  

Law Revision Commission Comments (CCP § 872.430)

1976 Addition

Section 872.430 is new. It avoids the need of the defendant to file a cross-complaint for affirmative relief. Compare Section 431.30(c) (affirmative relief may not be claimed in the answer).

Assembly Committee Comments

The Assembly Committee comment to Section 872.310 repeats in full the Revision Commission comment above. This is because the Legislature more or less endorsed an overall adoption of the Law Revision Commission suggestions when it passed the new partition statutes in 1976.

Indeed, the introduction to Assembly Bill 1671 (the bill that contained the new partition laws) states that the Revision Commission’s recommendations “reflect the intent of the Assembly Committee… in approving the various provisions of Assembly Bill 1671.”

Legislative intent aside, the comment here is quite applicable to modern-day partition litigation. Often, when faced with a partition complaint, defendants will file their own cross-complaint for partition or accounting, or both. Apparently, the logic is that the filing of these claims for relief will enable the defendants to collect on amounts owed to them by the plaintiff for household expenses (if any).

But the comment to Section 872.430 renders such action unnecessary and perhaps even ill-advised because it opens the door to a demurrer on these exact grounds. A cross-complaint for affirmative relief is unnecessary if that relief seeks compensatory adjustment for credits, offsets, and the like.

This because “every partition action includes a final accounting according to principles of equity for both charges and credits upon each cotenant’s interest.” (Wallace v. Daley (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1028, 1035.) And these credits include expenditures in excess of a cotenant’s fractional share towards the property. (Id.)

Thus, if a Defendant paid the full mortgage despite being only a 50% co-owner, they’d be entitled to seek contribution for their expenses above their fractional share in the answer by stating a claim for compensatory adjustment prior to distribution of the sales proceeds. They could do this by including their requests in response to either the body or the prayer of the complaint. ((Gray v. Superior Court (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 165, 174, fn. 2.)

As such, it’s unnecessary to spend time and money preparing a cross-complaint for an accounting when the answer to the partition complaint can simply set out any claims the defendant might have. In addition, this statute has been interpreted as allowing the defendant to claim the desire for partition in kind when the complaint requests partition by sale. “Affirmative relief may be requested in an answer in partition proceedings.” (Id. at 174.)

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