Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) Section 873.620 – Sale of Property Separately Or As a Unit

The California Partition Law begins at Code of Civil Procedure section 872.010 and ends at Code of Civil Procedure section 874.323. Section 873.620 requires the court to order distinct parcels of real property to be sold separately. The section also allows the court to sell property as a unit. This statute is important because courts must respect the boundaries of real estate parcels in partitions.

Code of Civil Procedure section 873.620 states:

(a) Unless the interests and rights of the parties will be materially prejudiced thereby, the court shall order that distinct lots or parcels of real property be sold separately.

(b) The court may order that the real and personal property or any portion thereof be sold as a unit.

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

What is an example?

“Shawn” and “Julie” are an unmarried couple who want to start a life together. They find a large amount of land consisting of three distinct parcels. One of the parcels has a residence. Shawn and Julie buy the land as joint tenants. They move in and start their new life together.

While they are living together, Shawn and Julie buy a lot of furniture and decorations for the home. They share the expenses of these purchases equally.

Unfortunately, Shawn and Julie’s relationship doesn’t work out, and they break up. They cannot agree on what to do with the property. Shawn wants to sell all the property and move on with his life, so he sues for partition by sale.

Eventually, the court orders the property sold and the sale proceeds distributed. Pursuant to CCP § 873.620, the court orders the three parcels of the property to be sold separately. The court determines that this order will not materially prejudice the parties. Since neither Shawn nor Julie wish to keep the furniture and decorations, the court also orders for the furniture and decorations to be sold with the residence as a unit.

Law Revision Commission Comments (CCP § 873.620)

1976 Addition

Subdivision (a) of Section 873.620 supersedes the last portion of former Section 782.

Subdivision (b) is new. Under subdivision (b) where real and personal property are sold as a unit, it is subject to a combined offer or “one bid.” See Prob.Code § 754.5.

Assembly Committee Comments

As is the case with almost all of the partition statutes, section 873.620 does not include a an “official” Assembly Committee Comment from the California Legislature. But this is not unusual. That’s because the Legislature endorsed an overall adoption of the Law Revision Commission suggestions when it passed the new partition statutes 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, it references superseded section 782, a provision regarding the sale of distinct lots. Section 782 stated:

“In all cases of sales of property the terms must be made known at the time; and if the premises consist of distinct farms or lots, they must be sold separately.”

Commenting on section 782, the Commission wrote, in relevant part:

“The last portion [of Section 782], requiring that separate farms or lots be sold separately, is superseded by Section 873.620, which provides for separate sale of known lots or parcels unless the interests or rights of the parties will be materially prejudiced thereby.”

As to how this statute plays out, there is one case interpreting former section 782 which still has some bearing on modern partition law. While the statute requires sales of separate lots to be sold separately, it mandates such an outcome only where it won’t materially prejudice the parties.

But, it is not an error to sell the property as a whole instead of selling the parcel separately where there is no evidence which would establish the premises consist of distinct farms or lots, and there is evidence that one of the parcels is so indivisibly linked with the balance of the property that it cannot be separated therefrom without great detriment. (Sting v. Beckham (1951) 105 Cal.App.2d 503.)

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