East Bay Partition Lawyers

In California’s San Francisco Bay Area, the East Bay has a population of roughly 2.5 million people and includes the cities along the eastern shore such as Oakland, Alameda, Concord, Emeryville, Fremont, Livermore, Pleasanton, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek. The East Bay began its development in earnest after the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 with its western terminus at the Oakland Long Wharf. Today, the Port of Oakland is the fifth largest container shipping port in the United States. The major employers in the East Bay include the University of California, Berkley, AT&T, Tesla, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Chevron, Safeway, and Bank of America. Frequently, there are at least four common types of partitions actions for which an East Bay 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 lawsuit requires real estate to be sold regardless of the requests of the other title owners. The purpose of a partition action is to permanently end all disputes and remove all obstacles to the free enjoyment of land by one person. ( McGillivray v. Evans  (1864) 27 Cal.92.) These types of actions can be brought for all types of real estate from houses to farms to office buildings to apartment buildings. Similarly, partition actions are available all types of ownership situations from joint tenants to tenants-in-common to partnership property to property jointly owned by former spouses.

Historically, the term "partition" comes from the basic word to break into "parts" as in physically dividing real estate in half. For example, if two siblings inherited ten acres of farmland, the property could historically be divided into five acres a piece for each of them. As most people now live in single-family homes, which cannot simply be "split in half," courts will instead order that the property be sold and the proceeds, or equity, be "split in half." The best East Bay Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

Broadly, a partition action has only relatively simple steps. First, a party files a lawsuit to establish their rights to the property and desire to sell the property. Second, the court determines that the property should be sold, and appoints an appraiser to appraise the property and offer the other owner the opportunity to buy out the interest. Third, if the other fails to do so, then the Court appoints a “partition referee” (who is frequently a licensed Realtor) to sell the property, and they market and sell the property and deposits the proceeds into a trust account. Fourth, the court determines how much each party should receive from the proceeds, which should include addressing offsets and claims for contribution in an “accounting.” A top East Bay 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. 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 East Bay Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What Are Claims for “Contribution”?

Code of Civil Procedure section 874.140 states that the “court may, in all cases, order allowance, accounting, contribution, or other compensatory adjustments among the parties according to the principles of equity.” 

The court in Hunter v. Schultz (1966) 240 Cal.App.2d 24 stated that the payments for interest, taxes, and insurance made by any co-tenant could be subject to reimbursement. These claims for reimbursement are commonly known as “offsets” in a partition action. 

Further, the court under Milian v. De Leon (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 1185, announced that a co-tenant who expends money for the preservation of the property, or with the [acceptance] of their co-tenant(s), is entitled to reimbursement for those expenditures before the division of the proceeds among the property owners. 

That is, the general rule is that compensatory adjustments are appropriate for improvements that enhance the value of the property for all owners’ benefit. (see Wallace v. Daley (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1028, 1035-1036.) An experienced East Bay Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Hong-Chuan Lin v. Ing-Jieh Jeng

Under California Evidence Code section 662, the description in a deed as to how title is held is presumed to reflect the actual ownership interests in the property. There is a presumption that the owner of the legal title to property is the owner of the full beneficial title, which may only be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. Whether the evidence offered to rebut the presumption is clear and convincing evidence is for the court to decide. ( Beeler v. American Trust Co. (1944) 24 Cal.2d 1,7.) What kind of evidence can be used to rebut that presumption? The following paragraphs discuss the types of evidence used to overcome the presumption of ownership in a case called, Hong-Chuan Lin v. Ing-Jieh Jeng (2010) 2010 WL 216796.

In Hong-Chuan Lin , Plaintiffs Hong-Chuan Lin (Jane’s husband) and Shwu-Jen Lin (Jane) brought a partition action against Jane’s brother, Ing-Jieh Jeng (Jack), alleging that they owned an undivided 85% interest in the Property and Jack owned an undivided 15% interest. Jane and Jack’s five surviving siblings intervened in the action, disputing Jane and her husband’s claim to the 85% interest in the Property. The trial court issued an interlocutory judgment, finding that the presumption of Evidence Code section 662 had been rebutted by Jane’s letters to her siblings in which she claimed less than an 85% interest, and admitted that her siblings had other varying ownership interests. Further, the trial court found that a resulting trust was created when the Property was purchased with a down payment supplied by contributions from Jack, Jane, their mother, and her sister, but title was taken only under Jane and Jack. Following the court’s issuance of an interlocutory judgment, Jane and her husband appealed. The trial court found that Jane and her husband were inconsistent, self-serving, biased, and not entitled to much credibility, while Jack and Raymond (their brother), were honest, truthful, and entitled to a lot of credibility.

Before the original purchase of the Property in the City of Alhambra, Jane and Jack’s parents had previously decided to buy a house in the City of Rosemead after they immigrated to the United States. Jane assisted with the purchase and obtained a loan for the Rosemead Property. The parents insisted that Jack’s name be on the loan and that Jack and Jane take title to the house as tenants in common, each with an undivided 50% interest in the Rosemead Property, even though Jane had paid no money for the purchase and never made a loan payment. Only the parents, Jack, and two other siblings, Larry and Shwu-Huey lived at the house. Eventually, Jack got married and moved out but continued making all the mortgage, tax, and insurance payments.

The parents decided to sell the Rosemead Property and found the Alhambra Property. Jane arranged for the sale of the Rosemead Property and the purchase of the Alhambra Property. The parents contributed 59%, Jack contributed 33%, Shwu-Huey contributed 4%, and Jane contributed 4%. Jane and her husband, and Jack and his then-wife signed the purchase loan. The grant deed for the Alhambra Property stated that Jane and her husband were owners in joint tenancy with an undivided 85% interest, and Jack and his then-wife were owners in joint tenancy of an undivided 15% interest. Jack’s wife quitclaimed her interest to Jack after they divorced. The parents, Shwu-Huey, and Larry lived in the house. Later, the Property was refinanced through a loan obtained by Jane and Jack. Jane paid Jack around 15% of the total loan. After the refinance, Jack would write Jane a check each month for $120, which was 15% of the mortgage.

The California Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the interlocutory judgment, finding that substantial evidence supported the trial court’s determination that the presumption of Evidence Code section 662 was overcome because: (1) Jane’s 1998 written letter to her brothers claimed only a 33% ownership interest for herself, and (2) Jane’s 2006 letter set forth the ownership interests of her siblings, leaving her with only 32.5% ownership interest. These letters showed that she claimed only a one-third interest in the Property. Further, the Court of Appeal held that the arrangement for the down payment, financing, taxes, and insurance strongly suggested that although the grant deed listed Jane and her husband as owners with an 85% interest, and Jack as an owner with a 15% interest, it was not intended to vest that way. Notably, Jane and her husband only made a 4% contribution to the down payment. Moreover, the siblings’ mother solicited her sons to contribute to an account to help pay the mortgage and other living expenses. The Parties agreed that Jane would make the mortgage payments to the lender. Jane collected monthly rent payments from Shwu-Huey, and Shwu-Huey made those rent payments through the funds contributed from her brothers. Jack also contributed $120 a month directly to Jane as a partial mortgage payment. So, in turn, Jane made the mortgage payments to the lender through the assistance of her brothers.

It was also Jane’s testimony that she was responsible for only paying one-third of the property taxes and did not pay 85% of the insurance premiums. Additionally, the Court of Appeal pointed out that “the purchase of the Rosemead house corroborated the conclusion that the grant deed for the Alhambra house did not accurately reflect ownership of the beneficial interests.” Just as her parents had directed that Jane and Jack each take title to the Rosemead Property as tenants in common with an undivided 50% interest but did not intend for that to accurately reflect the true ownership interests, the same went for the Alhambra Property. Hong-Chuan Lin is a perfect example for how the court views evidence in determining what is clear and convincing evidence that can rebut the Evidence Code section 662 presumption.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen above, the importance of preserving records of communications, letters, payments, etc., is of the utmost importance when it comes to actions in partitions. These records help to corroborate claims and as demonstrated above, can play a major role in rebutting a presumption.

As a party to a potential partition action, it is helpful to be aware of the principles and statutes governing partitions. As such, you may benefit from good legal advice on the topic. If you find yourself contemplating a partition action, or faced with defending one, then please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C. for an initial consultation.

Learn more here.

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.