Downey Partition Lawyers

The City of Downey was founded on October 23, 1873, and named after John Gately Downey, the governor of the state. The town's land was originally used agriculturally, growing many fruits including oranges. According to Redfin, In May 2023, Downey home prices were down 6.2% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $760K. On average, homes in Downey sell after 25 days on the market compared to 21 days last year. There were 37 homes sold in May this year, down from 39 last year. As a town with rich historical roots, residents of Downey often own homes due to inheritance, which can lead to disputes with co-owners.

There are at least four types of situations where a Downey Partition Attorney may be helpful:

  • Investor-Developer co-ownership of property; 
  • Ex Romantic Partner co-ownership of property; 
  • Shared Family co-ownership of property; and
  • Parent-Child co-ownership of property;
What Is a Partition Action in California?

Partitions are lawsuits that split up the property between multiple co-owners so that each can take their equity out of the home. The prototypical partition are between siblings, former romantic partners, or business partners. Both own parts of the property, but only one wants to end the relationship and take their money out. Partitions enable this to happen, usually ending with a court-ordered sale of the subject property.  

Basically, any person who is an owner of real estate can bring a partition action in California. Code of Civil Procedure section 872.710, subdivision (a), states "A partition action may be commenced and maintained by any…owner of…such property." California Civil Code section 872.210 provides a property owner with the "absolute right to partition" absent a valid waiver. Thus, a partition action can be brought by anyone who no longer wants to own jointly owned real estate, other than spousal property. 

Generally, a partition action cannot be stopped absent a valid waiver. The instances in which a court has found a valid waiver have generally 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 Downey Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

Generally, the first step in the partition lawsuit process is not a lawsuit, but an earnest attempt to resolve the matter informally, such as through a partition agreement. Only when it is clear that litigation is the only option, is it clear that a partition lawsuit is appropriate.

When it is clear that a partition lawsuit is necessary, then the process begins with the filing of a complaint in the county where the property is located. There are several technical requirements for the partition complaint, and many important steps that must be taken during the lawsuit to ensure that the process is managed effectively. 

In a partition lawsuit, there are generally four different steps. First, the court determines each party's ownership interests. Second, the court will decide on the manner of sale. Third, the court will order the property be sold. Fourth, the proceeds from the sale will be divided between the parties based on their relative contributions to the property. 

While some may believe that inherited property cannot be partitioned, this is incorrect. Instead, when the property is owned as the result of an inheritance, there may be an additional step for an appraisal, and a right of first refusal, as provided by the Uniform Partition of Heirs Act. Under this act, where a co-tenant requests partition by sale, the law gives the non-partition owner the option to buy all of the interests of the co-tenants who requested the sale. A top Downey Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process. 

Can You Mediate a Partition Action?

A partition action can always be resolved informally at any time prior to the first day of trial, or entry of judgment. In fact, in numerous instances, just filing the partition itself leads the other party to seek a resolution between them. We always encourage the parties to talk throughout every phase of the process, as that can lead to the best outcomes for everyone.

From our perspective, every piece of litigation is just part of a larger “negotiation.” In any negotiation, the party who has the best leverage is usually able to achieve a more favorable outcome. The lawsuit provides the client with more leverage because they have more options available to them than without the prospect of a resolution from a judge. As such, all that a lawsuit does is provide one party with more leverage in the negotiation about how to resolve the dispute. For this reason, the best way to informally resolve a dispute is to combine discussions with active litigation, so that the matter can be quickly resolved without unnecessary expense. Throughout the process, our attorneys are in touch with our clients about their options and the prospects for informal resolution through mediation or negotiation. A knowledgeable Downey 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 Downey Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters. 

A Partition Case Study: Forde v. Friedland 2021): Ensuring the Case Can Succeed

When a case comes to court, there are lots of barriers to a party’s success. The legal and evidentiary support for the arguments must be solid for a party to have a chance. Additionally, the parties must be aware of rules and procedures that they must follow, whether it’s the court rules or whether it’s the statutory procedure. 

Rules and procedures are vital to a party’s case because courts will not hesitate to throw out a case if these procedures are violated. Even if a party has the strongest legal arguments in the world, the party must still obey the procedures of the law.

What Led This Case to the Court of Appeal?

The properties at issue in Forde v. Friedland (2021) Cal.App.Unpub. WL 1996300 owned by Stephen Forde, Randy Taylor, Reyna Taylor, and Steve Hawrylack. (Id., at 1.) In the mid-2000's, the Taylors and Hawrylack purchased four properties together, two in Torrance which were called Maple 1 and Maple 2, and two in Glendale. (Id.) Carol Unruh, an attorney helping the Taylors and Hawrylack, had an interest in each of the properties. (Id.)

In 2011, Forde acquired Unruh’s interest in the properties. (Id.) Forde then sued the Taylors and Hawrylack, alleging mismanagement of the properties. (Id.) The trial court appointed Forde to manage the properties, and in September 2012 the parties reached a settlement agreement where Forde would continue to manage the properties. (Id.) 

In October 2015, the Taylors and Hawrylack sued Forde for partition of Maple 1 and Maple 2, along with several other claims. (Id.) They alleged that Forde had mismanaged the properties, including keeping rental income for his own personal use. (Id., at 2.) They sought to sell the properties and recover Forde’s allegedly improperly retained rents. (Id.

The next month, the trial court appointed a receiver, Kevin Singer, to manage Maple 2. (Id.) Forde attempted to interfere with Singer’s management of Maple 2, further complicating matters. (Id.) Finally, in May 2018, the trial court ordered a partition of Maple 1 and 2, directing Singer to sell both properties. (Id.)

Forde appealed the partition and posted a $500,000 bond to stay enforcement of the sale. (Id.) Before Forde posted the bond, Maple 2 was set to be sold at an overbid hearing, and Maple 1 had a potential buyer. (Id.) After Forde posted the bond but before the overbid hearing, the partition referee asked the trial court to increase the bond to cover any waste or costs that might happen because of Forde’s delay. (Id.)

In October 2018, the trial court increased the bond by $180,000. (Id.) Forde did not pay the increased amount, and so the trial court lifted the stay on November 7, 2018. (Id.) The court scheduled a confirmation and overbid hearing for Maple 1 and 2 for November 20, 2018. (Id.

On November 19, 2018, Forde sued the Taylors, Hawrylack, Singer, and the potential buyers for Maple 1 and 2. (Id.) Forde was suing for declaratory relief and quiet title. (Id., at 3.)

The Taylors and Hawrylack filed a special motion to strike this complaint, also known as an anti-SLAPP motion. (Id.) On May 6, 2019, the trial court granted the motion and ordered the complaint to be entirely struck, holding that Forde failed to demonstrate a probability of success on his complaint’s merits. (Id.)

On May 13, 2019, Forde filed another complaint that was identical to his first complaint and filed a lis pendens on the properties. (Id.) Forde added several real estate professionals and the new prospective buyers of Maple 2 to this complaint. (Id.) Against the real estate professionals, Forde alleged new claims of fraud, negligence, and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. (Id., at 4.) All the other claims were virtually identical. (Id.

After Forde filed the complaint, Singer brought an ex parte application for the partition action, asking the trial court to set a confirmation and overbid hearing for Maple 2, expunge the lis pendens from Maple 1 and 2, prohibit Forde from filing a lien or encumbrance on Maple 2, and void any future liens or lis pendens from Forde. (Id.) The trial court granted Singer’s application. (Id.

On May 31, 2019, Forde filed an ex parte application in his May 13, 2019 lawsuit, asking the court to set aside the order granting Singer’s ex parte application in the partition lawsuit. (Id.) The trial court denied Forde’s application. (Id., at 5.) 

On June 12, 2019, Singer filed another ex parte application in the partition action to extend the closing date for the sale of Maple 1. (Id.) The trial court granted Singer’s application. (Id.

On June 11, 2019, the Taylors and Hawrylack filed an ex parte application in Forde’s May 13, 2019 lawsuit to shorten the time for the special motion to strike and for a sanctions motion. (Id.) They also asked the court to stay the present motion and extend the amount of time for the real estate professionals to respond to the complaint. (Id.) The court granted the application. (Id., at 6.) 

On June 17, 2019, Forde dismissed all of his claims except quiet title. (Id.)

On June 18, 2019, the Taylors and Hawrylack filed and served their special motion to strike and motions for sanctions. (Id.) Forde opposed and challenged the motions. (Id., at 7.) After a court hearing on the matter, the trial court granted the special motion to strike and ordered sanctions against Forde. (Id., at 8.) Forde appealed, and the Court of Appeal upheld in part and reversed in part the trial court’s judgment. (Id.)

Forde's Holding: Following Procedure

First, the Court of Appeal addressed the special motion to strike. For a special motion to strike, the court must first decide if the challenged claim is arising from protected activity, then the court must consider if the plaintiff has demonstrated a probability of prevailing on the claim. (Id.)

Whether Forde’s quiet title claim arose from protected activity was difficult to determine because Forde did not specify the basis of the claim. (Id., at 9.) Forde claimed the basis of the quiet title claim was conduct of the Taylors and Hawrylack where he alleged they breached the first settlement agreement. (Id.) But in his written opposition to the specila motion to strike, Forde stated that the basis of the quiet title claim was due to the conduct of the Taylors and Hawrylack during the partition action. (Id.

The trial court ruled that Forde’s quiet title claim arose from the allegedly improper action the Taylors and Hawrylack took during the partition action. (Id.) The Court of Appeal agreed. (Id.

Next, Forde argued his complaint was sufficient to show probability of success on the quiet title claim. (Id.) Forde, however, had no admissible evidence to support his position. (Id.) The Court of Appeal ruled that Forde could not demonstrate probability of success and upheld the trial court’s judgment in granting the special motion to strike. (Id.

Forde then argued that the trial court erred in striking the entire complaint. (Id.) The motion to strike did ask to strike the entire complaint, but it did not address the causes of action asserted against the real estate professionals. (Id.) The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s grant of the motion to strike with regard to the real estate professionals. (Id.

Finally, Forde and his attorney argued that the trial court erred in granting the sanctions motions. (Id.) The Court of Appeal concluded there was overwhelming evidence that Forde’s complaint was frivolous and filed for improper purpose. (Id.) Despite this, the Court of Appeal reversed the sanctions motions, holding that the motions did not comply with the safe harbor provisions of the law. (Id.

The safe harbor provisions provide a 21-day period between service of the notice of a motion for sanctions and the filing of the motion. (Id.) The Taylors and Hawrylack argued that the trial court prescribed a different safe harbor period when it granted their ex parte application to shorten the time period to file the sanction motions. (Id.)

The Taylors and Hawrylack still failed to give proper notice necessary to start the safe harbor period in the first place. (Id.) Notice through the ex parte application did not count as proper notice. (Id.) The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order granting motion for sanctions. (Id.

Forde is illustrative of how important evidence and procedure is during litigation. Forde could not provide support with evidence, and so the court was quick to dismiss his arguments. Even still, Forde still managed to have judgment in his favor because the opposing side failed to comply with proper procedure. Even though the other side had the better argument, the failure to abide by procedural law doomed their case on that issue.

How Underwood Law Firm Can Help You

As seen in Forde, issues in a partition lawsuit can be complex. It is vital that parties are prepared to follow the procedures outlined by the law. This includes deadlines set up within the statutes. Otherwise, even with convincing arguments and overwhelming evidence, courts will dismiss the case. 

At Underwood Law Firm, our knowledgeable attorneys are here to help navigate the complex web of case law and statutes surrounding partitions. If you are trying to plan a partition order, or just have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our office. 

Learn more here.

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