Hemet Partition Lawyers

The city of Hemet was named in November 1893 after the Lake Hemet Land Company founded the town. The city was later incorporated in January 1910, which helped the city as it was outgrowing its infrastructure. As many of the homes in Hemet are owner-occupied, Hemet residents who own real estate may face disputes with co-owners. According to Redfin, In June 2023, Hemet home prices were down 1.1% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $430K. On average, homes in Hemet sell after 31 days on the market compared to 32 days last year. There were 101 homes sold in June this year, down from 143 last year. Hemet residents who own real estate may face disputes with co-owners. Generally, a partition action is the best remedy for disputing co-owners in four broad categories:

  • Split ownership real estate dispute;
  • Brother-Sister real estate dispute;
  • Investor-Investor real estate dispute; and
  • Significant other real estate dispute
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 Hemet 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 Hemet Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Recover Attorneys’ Fees in a Partition Action?

Code of Civil Procedure, section 874.010 states that “[t]he costs of partition include: (a) [r]easonable attorney’s fees incurred or paid by a party for the common benefit.” 

Interestingly, the costs of partition can also include reasonable expenses necessarily incurred by a party for the common benefit in prosecuting or defending other actions or proceedings for the protection, confirmation, or perfection of title, setting the boundaries, or making a survey of the property. (CCP § 874.020.) 

That attorney’s fees are considered “costs” associated with a partition action is important because Section 874.040 goes on to state the “court shall apportion the costs of partition among the parties in proportion to their interests or make such other apportionment as may be equitable.” A knowledgeable Hemet Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What Are Claims for “Contribution”?

Before the sales proceeds are distributed among the parties, a court-ordered accounting will determine the charges and credits upon each co-owner’s interest. These credits are taken out of the net proceeds before the balance is divided equally. (Southern Adjustment Bureau, Inc. v. Nelson (1964) 230 Cal.App.2d 539 (“Nelson”).) 

“When a cotenant makes advances from his own pocket to preserve the common estate, his investment in the property increases by the entire amount advanced. Upon sale of the estate, he is entitled to his reimbursement before the balance is equally divided.” (Nelson, 230 Cal.App.2d, at p. 541, citing William v. Koyer (1914) 168 Cal.369.)

As such, a party to a partition action must produce and gather their evidence and make sure that it is presented to the court so they can receive full credit for the value that they have added to the property. While a party may have a right to these credits under the law, ultimately, they will not be counted unless they can be presented in the proper form. An experienced Hemet Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Forde v. Craemer (2021): Arising from Protected Activity

The United States Constitution and the California Constitution both provide protections for free speech and the right to petition. These protections generally apply to statements and requests parties make in court. Occasionally though, a plaintiff may want to sue based on these protected statements, which may not be allowed.

A special motion to strike, called an anti-SLAPP motion, can be filed when a plaintiff’s claims are based on protected free speech. A court can grant an anti-SLAPP motion to strike parts of the plaintiff’s complaint that involves constitutionally protected speech.

What Led This Case to the Court of Appeal?

The property at issue in Forde v. Craemer (2021) Cal.App.Unpub. WL 266609, were four rental properties: Maple 1, Maple 2, Verdugo, and the Jackson Duplex. (Id., at 1.) The Taylors and Steve Hawrylack managed these properties. (Id.) In 2011, Stephen Forde acquired partial ownership interest in the properties. (Id.)

Later, Forde sued the Taylors and Hawrylack, alleging that they had mismanaged the properties. (Id.) In September 2012, the parties settled the case. (Id.) As part of the settlement agreement, Forde began managing the properties. (Id.)

In October 2015, the Taylors and Hawrylack sued Forde for partition of Maple 1 and Maple 2. (Id.) They also sued for breach of contract, an accounting, waste, and conversion. (Id.)

In this partition action, the Taylors and Hawrylack claimed that Forde pocketed the rental income for himself, failed to make payments on loans, and improperly maintained the rental properties. (Id.) The Taylors and Hawrylack wanted to recover the rental income they alleged Forde had taken. (Id.)

The trial court appointed a receiver, Kevin Singer, to manage Maple 2. (Id.) In May 2018, the trial court entered an interlocutory judgment of partition and appointed Singer the referee of Maple 1 and Maple 2. (Id.) Singer was to oversee the sale of those properties. (Id.) Forde appealed the trial court’s judgment. (Id.)

Forde posted a $500,000 bond to stay the enforcement of the interlocutory judgment order while his appeal was pending. (Id.) In October 2018, the trial court ordered Forde to post an additional $180,000 bond to stay the judgment. (Id.) Forde did not post the additional bond, and the trial court lifted the stay on the judgment. (Id.) The property was then sold. (Id.) Forde’s appeal was eventually dismissed as moot. (Id., at 2.)

In November 2018, Forde sued the Taylors, Hawrylack, Singer, and the intended buyers of Maple 1 and Maple 2. (Id.) Forde sued for declaratory relief and quiet title. (Id.)

The section headings in Forde’s complaint were mostly fair summaries of his claims. (Id.) His final section heading, however, did not fairly summarize his allegations that were under this heading. (Id.) Under this heading instead, Forde concentrated on the additional $180,000 bond he failed to pay. (Id.) Forde wanted to cancel the $180,000 bond requirement. (Id.)

The Taylors and Hawrylack filed a special motion to strike Forde’s entire complaint, also known as an anti-SLAPP motion. (Id., at 3.) They contended that Forde’s causes of action arose from statements and requests they made to the trial court regarding the interlocutory judgment in the partition action. (Id.) The Taylors and Hawrylack argued these statements were constitutionally protected free speech. (Id.) They also argued Forde could not reasonably prevail because Forde was collaterally attacking the trial court’s order of partition. (Id.)

Forde opposed the motion, arguing that the action was about information discovered after the interlocutory judgment, and the partition action was only background context. (Id.) He also claimed that he was trying to hold the Defendants accountable for allegedly inaccurate statements that had damaged him. (Id.) Forde also made several other statements contradicting himself. (Id.)

The trial court granted the anti-SLAPP motion striking Forde’s complaint. (Id.) The trial court held that Forde was trying to hold the Defendants accountable for protected activity. (Id.) Forde appealed, and the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s judgment. (Id.)

Forde’s Holding: Connecting Claims and Protected Activity in Partitions

Generally, courts evaluate anti-SLAPP motions through a two-part process. (Id.) First, the moving defendant must establish that the challenged statements arise from protected activity. (Id.) Next, if the defendant establishes that the challenged statements arise from protected activity, the plaintiff must demonstrate that his claims have “minimal merit”. (Id.)

Forde conceded that the trial court did not err in granting the anti-SLAPP motion for his claim of declaratory relief. (Id.) Forde’s declaratory relief claim was based on his allegation that Singer had made false statements to the court in the partition action. (Id.) Statements made before a judicial proceeding are considered a protected activity. (Id.)

Forde argued instead that the trial court erred in granting the anti-SLAPP motion for his quiet title claim. (Id.) Forde contended that his quiet title action arose from the Taylors’ and Hawrylacks’ refusal to comply with the September 2012 settlement agreement, not from statements they made. (Id.) Forde claimed that the Taylors and Hawrylack failed to provide documentation for an accounting, which the settlement agreement required. (Id.)

Forde’s quiet title claim did not specify what conflicting claims he and the Defendants had to Maple 1 and Maple 2. (Id.) The other allegations in his complaint, however, demonstrated that some of the Defendants’ adverse claims to the properties were based on the court-ordered partition sale. (Id.) Forde alleged this partition sale was completed only because Singer lied to the trial court about needing the additional $180,000 bond, which would be protected activity. (Id.) The Court of Appeal concluded that Forde’s quiet title claim arose from protected activity. (Id.)

Furthermore, on appeal Forde did not argue that the trial court should only strike allegations of protected activity. (Id.) Forde also did not argue that the trial court erred in striking the entire complaint rather than only allegations of protected activity. (Id.) The Court of Appeal ruled that Forde forfeited any argument that the trial court erred in striking the entire complaint rather than only allegations of protected activity. (Id.) Due to this, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that the Defendants met their burden in the first step of evaluating anti-SLAPP motions. (Id.)

Moving on to the next step, Forde did not cite any evidence in his opposition to the anti-SLAPP motion. (Id.) The Court of Appeal held Forde did not meet his burden to show his claim had merit and failed to demonstrate any error from the trial court. (Id.) The Court of Appeal fully affirmed the trial court’s judgment. (Id.)

Forde shows how courts will assess anti-SLAPP motions. It is important to remember that statements in judicial proceedings are considered a protected activity under the law. Usually, anti-SLAPP motions are used to prevent petty plaintiffs from abusing the litigation process in attempts to shut the other side up.

How Underwood Law Firm Can Help You

As seen in Forde, anti-SLAPP motions are used to enforce one's constitutionally protected right to free speech and petition. Courts do not want the threat of potential litigation to have a chilling effect on litigation proceedings, so courts will generally protect the parties’ speech during those proceedings. This is an important tool to keep in mind, especially against a particularly adversarial party.

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.

Learn more here.

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