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Long Beach Partition Lawyers

In the 1880s, the City of Long Beach originally started out as a farming and resort community when real estate began to boom. As Long Beach is known for being the most affordable beach city in the Southern California region, residents of Long Beach who own property may face disputes with co-owners. Generally, the best Long Beach Partition Attorneys usually find partition action to be the best remedy for disputing co-owners in four broad categories:

  • Split 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.

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

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

First, a partition action is filed. A partition action can be filed if one co-owner of real property or a piece of real estate wishes to sell the property or piece of real estate in question but the other co-owners or co-tenants do not wish to sell their ownership rights.

Second, the court may appoint a court referee to oversee the sale of the property in question. The sales procedure includes that all parties agree to the terms and conditions of the sale in writing. If the parties can not agree, as partition actions are usually very contested issues, then the referee that the court appointed may recommend terms and conditions to the court. Then the court will hold a hearing to decide whether or not to accept those terms and conditions.

Third, in California, the property’s value will be appraised via a third party or another property appraisal with no ties to any of the parties. While this is not required in all states, it is recommended to make sure that all parties are on the same metaphorical page as to the potential sale proceeds of the property in question.

Fourth, the referee will conduct the sale in the method most agreeable to all of the party’s goals. This can be via a public auction or a private sale. Regardless of the specific method of partition by sale, the court will determine if the sale was “fair.” If it is decided that the property’s sale proceeds had a lack of proper notice, the sale amount is not within reasonable the value of the property, or if the proceeds were unfair- the court would rule that the property will be up for sale again.

Lastly, the court will order that the proceeds of the sale, minus any court litigated or approved offsets or costs, will be distributed equitably amongst all of the co-owners or people with interest in the property. A top Long Beach Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

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 Long Beach Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

Can You Mediate a Partition Action?

Generally, anyone considering filing a lawsuit should consider all of their alternatives, including an informal resolution of the problem. This can take the form of a discussion with the other owner or owners about agreeing to sell the property, negotiating with the co-owner to create a formula to divide the proceeds from the sale, or retaining a lawyer to engage in a mediation with the other owners.

Throughout the partition process, and even on the day of trial, any of the owners can make an agreement about the sale of the property. This can happen through a phone call, through negotiations between the parties' lawyers, or through a mediation session with a retired judge or trained mediator. There are many benefits from a mediation session, including confidentiality provisions contained in the law in Evidence Code sections 1115 through 1129.

Specifically, Evidence Code section 1119, subdivision (a), provides "no evidence of anything said or any admission made for the purpose of, in the course of, or pursuant to, a mediation or a mediation consultation is admissible or subject to discovery, and disclosure of the evidence shall not be compelled in any arbitration, administrative adjudication, civil action, or other noncriminal proceeding in which, pursuant to law, testimony can be compelled to be given." A knowledgeable Long Beach Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

A Partition Case Study: Silva v. Silva et al. (2009)

How may a claim to quiet title based on adverse possession affect a partition action? Adverse possession is a legal doctrine, more colloquially known as “squatter’s rights,” that may give a party a rightful claim to the ownership of real property if that party shows that certain requirements have been satisfied. In the context of partition actions, a party who succeeds in quieting title based on adverse possession may defeat another party seeking partition whose ownership interest has been extinguished. The following paragraphs discuss this outcome in Silva v. Silva (Cal. Ct. App., Sept. 23, 2009, No. B212531) 2009 WL 3020002.

In Silva, Mrs. Maria Magdalena Silva (the “Plaintiff” or “Mrs. Silva”) brought an action against her son, Alfonso Silva, Jr. (the “Defendant” or “Alfonso Junior”), seeking to quiet title to property based on a theory of adverse possession. Mrs. Silva also brought an action seeking cancellation of a trust deed encumbering the property that Alfonso Junior executed in 2007. Alfonso Junior cross-claimed seeking partition.

Mrs. Silva and Alfonso Silva, Sr. (“Mr. Silva”) were married in 1957. Decades after in 1978, Mrs. Silva, Mr. Silva, and their adult son, Alfonso Junior, together acquired a property in Long Beach, California (the “Property”), each holding title as joint tenants. Mrs. Silva resided on the Property and regularly collected rent payments from tenants who lived in the Property’s rental units.

In 1982, in spite of his marriage to Mrs. Silva, Mr. Silva moved to Mexico to re-marry and live with another woman named Enedina Padilla. Mr. Silva resided with Ms. Padilla in Mexico until 1999. During the time period from January 1, 1983 to January 1, 2000, neither Mr. Silva nor Alfonso Junior resided at the Property with Mrs. Silva. Later in 2000, however, while going through a divorce, Alfonso Junior asked for Mrs. Silva's permission to move back onto the Property. Mrs. Silva agreed, but she charged Alfonso Junior monthly rent while he lived on the Property, which Alfonso Junior paid.

In 2007, Mr. Silva returned to the property for several months to help care for his and Mrs. Silva’s other son named Alberto, who was ill. Mr. Silva conveyed his entire interest in the Property by quitclaim deed to Alfonso Junior. During his short stay on the Property, Mr. Silva also gave Mrs. Silva money, which he denied was rent.

That same year, Alfonso Junior borrowed approximately $30,000 against the Property. The lender obtained a trust deed against the Property signed by Alfonso Junior as security for the loan. Mrs. Silva testified that she had never given Alfonso Junior permission to borrow against the house, nor had he ever told her the amount that he had wanted to borrow. Gonzalo Silva, one of Mrs. Silva’s sons, later testified that his mother signed the loan application because she felt threatened. Alfonso Junior claimed that Mrs. Silva had never informed him that he had no rights to the Property. Mrs. Silva contended that she had not told him he was not an owner because she had never felt that he was an owner. Alfonso Junior and Mr. Silva then moved out of the Property.

On September 13, 2007, Mrs. Silva filed a complaint against her son, Alfonso Junior. Mrs. Silva’s complaint sought to quiet title to the Property based on a theory of adverse possession and to cancel the trust deed for $30,000 that Alfonso Junior signed in 2007. Alfonso Junior filed a cross-claim seeking partition. The court conducted a bench trial commencing on July 28, 2008.

At trial, to support her adverse possession claim, Mrs. Silva provided substantial evidence that (1) she had held possession of the Property from 1982 to present under color of title (the appearance of a legitimate claim); (2) she had been in open, notorious, and exclusive possession of the Property; (3) she had occupied the premises for a continuous period from 1982 to 1987; and (4) she had paid the taxes on Property. Mrs. Silva also contended that Alfonso Junior's cross-complaint for partition was barred by the doctrine of laches (bars lawsuits based on the claimant’s unreasonable delay) and unclean hands (bars lawsuits based on the claimant’s wrongful conduct).

Alfonso Junior argued that Mrs. Silva's possession of the Property was never expressly nor overtly adverse and that it was without notice. He also argued that Mrs. Silva had never been in exclusive possession of the Property, which he believed constituted community property belonging to the family, and that her use of the Property was permissive, rather than hostile as required for an adverse possession claim, because it allowed use by family members.

In its Statement of Decision, the trial court held that Alfonso Junior did not have any interest in the property because the evidence supporting Mrs. Silva's adverse possession claim rebutted the presumption of ownership arising from the presence of Alfonso Junior’s name on title to the Property. (CEC § 662.) Although Alfonso Junior alleged that he had participated in the decision to buy the house and was to be an “owner,” Mrs. Silva convincingly demonstrated that Alfonso Junior had appeared on title for the sole purpose of co-signing the loan to purchase the Property.

The evidence also indicated that Mrs. Silva had made regular repairs to the Property and had alone paid the mortgage between 1982 and 2000, while Alfonso Junior had never contributed to the mortgage after 1982. Mr. Silva admitted at trial he did not pay any of the mortgage or taxes. The trial court further held that the only other interest in the Property besides Mrs. Silva’s one-half interest was Mr. Silva's one-half interest.

The trial court held that Mrs. Silva acquired her husband's interest through adverse possession because she established that (a) she had possession based on her residence in the house and role as landlord to the tenants; (b) she had a claim of right or color of title under the deed to the Property; (c) her possession was open and notorious because Mr. Silva abandoned the property and moved to Mexico; (d) her possession was hostile and exclusive because Mr. Silva unequivocally abandoned the property for 17 years; and (e) Mrs. Silva paid the taxes out of her separate funds. Lastly, the trial court held that Mrs. Silva's claim was not barred by laches because the adverse possessor did not have the burden to bring a claim to perfect their interest. The court also found for Mrs. Silva on Alfonso Junior’s cross-complaint. Alfonso Junior appealed.

On appeal, the California Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s holdings that (1) Alfonso Junior had no ownership interest in the Property, (2) Mrs. Silva had acquired the Property by adverse possession, and (3) Alfonso Junior’s partition claim fails. Regarding the partition claim, the Court of Appeal pointed out that the trial court had expressly denied the partition claim in its Statement of Decision when it gave judgment to Mrs. Silva on the cross-complaint.

The burden had been on Alfonso Junior to raise before the trial court any alleged deficiencies in the Statement of Decision at that time, and his failure to do so waived the claim. The Court of Appeal ordered that Mrs. Silva was to recover costs.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As we’ve seen, a party who succeeds in quieting title based on adverse possession may defeat another party seeking partition whose ownership interest has been extinguished. Circumstances such as whether a party has an actual ownership interest in a property, whether all the elements of adverse possession have been satisfied, and whether the partition claim has been waived play an important role in a court’s decision.

As there are many different ways to waive the right of partition, and you are considering it as an option, then 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.

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