Hayward Partition Lawyers

Hayward is within the southern region of the San Francisco Bay Area, located in Alameda County, and was once known for its robust agricultural and canning industries. As a growing residential city, Hayward locals may find themselves co-owning property with others who they do not want to maintain a legal relationship. When these types of relationships turn sour, joint owners may find that ending their entanglement with other co-owners is the best option. When a co-owner reaches such a stage, a Hayward Partition Lawyer can give them vital legal information on how to end their joint tenancy successfully. There are at least four instances where speaking with a Hayward Partition Lawyer should be considered:

  • Boyfriend-Girlfriend co-ownership of property;
  • Sibling-Sibling co-ownership of property;
  • Parent-Child co-ownership of property; and
  • Investor-Investor co-ownership of property
What Is a Partition Action in California?

A partition action is a lawsuit brought by a property owner seeking the court to force the sale of a jointly owned piece of real property. Typically, partition actions occur when co-owners of real estate have disputes about its ownership and use, and one of them seeks to end their ownership interest. That is, a partition action has no other purpose than to sever the unity of possession between cotenants in a piece of real property. (Rancho Santa Margarita v. Vail (1938) 11 Cal.2d 501, 539.) Currently, partition actions are governed by the provisions set forth in the Code of Civil Procedure section 872.010. These statutes set out a general process by which a property may be partitioned.

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 Hayward Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

Under the Partition of Real Property Act, the court instead appoints an appraiser to do the heavy lifting. The new statute states that the court “shall determine the fair market value of the property by ordering an appraisal.” (CCP § 874.316.) The court doesn’t have to be the one to order the appraisal, but this is only if all the co-owners agree to a different method of valuation.

If, however, an appraisal occurs, it shall be conducted by a disinterested third-party real estate appraiser licensed to determine the fair market value of properties. After the appraisal is conducted, parties may file objections to the value and can even offer additional evidence of value to the court.

After the valuation is complete, parties will be introduced to the key feature of the new statute: the buy-out option. If a co-owner requests a partition by sale, then the court will notify the other co-owners that they may buy all the interests of the cotenant that requested the partition. (CCP § 874.317.)

This is, essentially, a right of first refusal. The co-owners who don’t want the property sold now have the option to simply buy out the requesting party. Additionally, the buy-out price will be based on the property’s valuation, determined earlier in the litigation. And if one or more parties exercise the buy-out, then the court will reapportion ownership percentages based on the price paid. A top Hayward Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

What Are Claims for “Contribution”?

Under the law, a property owner can make a claim for contribution for anything that they have expended for the common benefit of all the parties as it relates to their jointly-owned property. Code of Civil Procedure section 874.410 states that “the court may, in all cases, order allowance, accounting, contribution, or other compensatory adjustment among the parties according to the principles of equity.” For example, the credits can include expenditure in excess of the co-tenants fractional share for necessary repairs and improvements that enhance the value of the property. (Wallace v. Daley (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1028, 1035-1036.) Similarly, payments for interest, taxes, and insurance made by any co-tenant could be the subject of a reimbursement claim. (Hunter v. Schultz (1966) 240 Cal.App.2d 24.) An experienced Hayward Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

Can You Mediate or Settle a Partition Lawsuit?

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 Hayward Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

A Partition Case Study: Aurignac v. Aurignac

In Aurignac v. Aurignac (2007) Cal.App.Unpub. WL 2476021, the property at issue was a ranch owned by nine family members. (Id., at 1.) The original owners were Helen and Paul Aurignac, until Paul died in 1971 and family members gained ownership interests in the ranch. (Id.) The ranch was divided into three main sections. (Id.) The first was the Garrissere Ranch and Los Lobos section, which was steep and hilly. (Id.) The next was the Tamaranda section, which was also steep and hilly. (Id.) The third was the flatter Hames Valley, and then finally was a separate section called the Creason. (Id.) Eventually, Leslie Ann Cederquist and her three children, who together owned 38.65 percent of the ranch, sued several other family members for partition. (Id., at 2.) Helen Aurignac, her daughter, and her grandchildren owned the other 61.35 percent of the ranch was owned, and Leslie sued all of them collectively. (Id., at 1.) Leslie was married to Helen Aurignac’s son. (Id., at 2.) Helen Aurignac herself had sole ownership of a 2.5 acre residential parcel on the property. (Id.)

The trial court appointed a referee to determine how the property should be partitioned. (Id.) The parties agreed together that the ranch should be physically separated, though they disagreed about how it would occur. (Id.) The parties each submitted reports of their expert real estate appraisers on the best uses and value of the property. (Id.)

The plaintiff’s expert stated that the best uses were cattle grazing, recreation, and oil extraction. (Id., at 3.) He also estimated the ranch’s value to be at 475 dollars per acre. (Id.) The defendant’s expert concluded that the best use of the property was to be sold separately for investment purposes. (Id.) He estimated the ranch’s value to be at 750 dollars per acre. (Id.)

Ultimately, after viewing all of the parties’ evidence and listening to their arguments, the referee recommended a physical division of the property that he believed was suitable for the circumstances. (Id, at 1.) The trial court confirmed the report and ordered an interlocutory judgment of physical partition. (Id.) Helen Aurignac and the other defendants appealed the trial court’s judgment, believing the land distribution to be unfair. (Id.) The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s interlocutory judgment of partition. (Id.)

Aurignac is a cautionary tale of using experts. Most cases will require the services of an expert. However, it is ultimately the party’s responsibility, not the expert’s, to convince the court of the party’s arguments. An expert can lay out the facts and give their perspective, but they cannot make the legal arguments necessary to win the case. Additionally, the other side will no doubt have their own expert as well. It is up to the party to use the expert effectively and convincingly.

Since there are a lot of people involved in this case, it may be helpful at this point to summarize the parties. Helen Aurignac, her daughter, and her grandchildren were defendants in the initial lawsuit. Since they appealed to the Court of Appeal, they will be referred to from now on as appellants. Leslie Ann Cederquist and her three children were the plaintiffs in the initial lawsuit. Since they were responding to the appeal, they will be referred to from now on as respondents.

The appellants argued that the recommended partition was unfair because they should be awarded more land to compensate for getting a waste disposal site, and to compensate for land that's value would be lowered by oil and gas extraction equipment and facilities. (Id, at 13.) The appellants indicated that the trial court relied too much on the respondents' expert, who stated his opinion that the fair market value of oil and gas land could be reduced by 35 dollars per acre all the way up to 135 dollars per acre (Id., at 14.) The appellants argued that the trial court relied too heavily on this opinion while not considering their own expert’s opinion. (Id.)

The Court of Appeal was unconvinced by this argument. (Id.) For one thing, the appellants failed to cite to the record for this argument. (Id.) The Court of Appeal reviewed the record themselves and concluded that there was substantial evidence supporting the trial court’s partition judgment. (Id., at 15.) The Court of Appeal wrote:

“The referee's recommended partition, as adopted by the trial court, principally relied on the opinions of John Piini, respondents' appraiser. Appellants have not challenged Piini's qualifications as an expert appraiser of Monterey County ranch land. Piini testified that based on the sales comparison approach, he would place a fair market value on the Ranch as a whole of $475 per acre. His evaluation included his opinion that the presence of oil and gas leases and oil extraction equipment and facilities would diminish the overall value of the Ranch. However, Piini also testified that ranches with physical characteristics and size (over 2500 acres) similar to those of the Ranch and primarily used for cattle ranching and recreation, were not bought and sold on the basis of the characterization of individual acres but rather as entire large ranches.” (Id.)

The Court of Appeal also noted that the respondents’ expert’s proposal satisfied both parties’ in dividing the ranch into two separate ranches. (Id.) Even the appellant’s expert voiced his opinion that this option was the most practical and equitable for splitting the property into two viable cattle ranches. (Id.)

Aurignac shows that a party’s expert is there to supplement, not supplant, the party’s arguments. An expert’s opinion should be used as one tool in the party’s kit, not the only tool. After all, opposing counsel likely has their own expert who sounds professional and convincing.

In a battle between the experts, the party must distinguish themselves and persuade the court that the case should go their way. This can happen in multiple different ways, from attacking the other expert’s credentials, to providing additional legal support. No matter what though, the party should not be solely relying on expert opinions.

Learn more here.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen in Aurignac, a partition case can be full of intricacies that a party must prepare for. A party may have a convincing expert, but it is just as likely that opposing counsel has an equally convincing expert. It is important for parties to understand how the expert’s testimony can bolster their legal arguments and use the expert to deftly construct a persuasive case.

Here 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.

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