Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) Section 872.640 - Interests of Unknown Parties

Code of Civil Procedure section 872.640 allows the court to consider the interests of unknown parties together in the same action. This statute is important because it increases the court’s efficiency in partitions by allowing the interests of multiple unknown parties to be consolidated.

Code of Civil Procedure section 872.640 states:

Where two or more parties are unknown, the court may consider their interests together in the action and not as between each other.

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

What Is an Example?

“Shawn” and “Julie” are an unmarried couple who decide to move in together. They buy a house in Los Angeles as tenants in common and start living together.

Unfortunately, Shawn and Julie’s relationship deteriorates, and they break up. They cannot agree on what to do with the property. Julie wants to sell the house and move on, so she sues Shawn for partition by sale.

Julie finds out that Shawn has sold parts of his interest to several other unknown parties. Julie cannot find out who they are, and she includes the unknown parties in her complaint.

At trial, pursuant to CCP § 872.640, the court considers the interests of the unknown parties together as one bloc rather than separately. This saves time and money since the parties do not have to investigate each unknown party’s interest individually.

Law Revision Commission Comments (CCP § 872.640)

1976 Addition

Section 872.640 continues the last portion of former Section 759.

Assembly Committee Comments

There isn’t actually any official Assembly Committee comment to Section 872.640 under the amended partition statutes. But, as with all the partition statutes, this is because the Legislature essentially endorsed an overall adoption of the Law Revision Commission suggestions when it passed the new partition laws in 1976.

In fact, 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.” This demonstrates that the intent of the Legislature was substantially in line with that of the Revision Commission.

As to the comment here, it reflects the Revision Commission’s dealings with former section 759 under the old partition statutes. Section 759 provided that, “the rights of the several parties, plaintiff as well as defendant, may be put in issue, tried, and determined in such action; and when a sale of the premises is necessary, the title must be ascertained by proof to the satisfaction of the court before the sale can be ordered; except that where there are several unknown persons having an interest in the property, their rights may be considered together in the action, and not as between themselves.”

The Commission commented on their recommendation for repealing this provision, stating:

“The portion of former Section 759 that provided for the determination of the rights of the parties is continued in Section 872.610. The portion that required ascertainment of title in case of a sale of the property is superseded by Section 872.620, requiring ascertainment of title generally to the extent necessary to grant appropriate relief. The portion that permitted consideration of the rights of unknown persons together is continued in Section 872.640.”

Thus, section 759 was split into three parts, and now section 872.640 reflects the final division. In practice, this provision is seldom used. It simply isn’t common for there to be unknown interests floating around on a piece of property.

Nonetheless, section 872.640 reflects the broader principle inherent to partition actions that the court shall resolve any issues necessary to ascertain the state of title before allowing the action to proceed. (see CCP § 872.620.)

Even before the statutes were amended, this line of thinking was incorporated into many appellate decisions that are still good law today. For example, in 1954, the First District Court of Appeal stated, “the equities of the respective parties are considered and disposed of upon principles which govern courts of equity. In such action the parties may assert any title they have, legal or equitable, and the court will decree what is equitable and proper.” (Demetris v. Demetris (1954) 125 Cal.App.2d 440, 445.)

As such, whether the interests affecting the subject property are unknown, categorized as a lien or encumbrance, or based in equitable, as supposed to legal title, they are all issues for a judge to examine and ascertain before ordering a partition.

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