Orange Partition Lawyers

The City of Orange is located in Orange County, and was founded in 1869 by two lawyers Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glassell, who received 1,385 acres of land from Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana as payment for legal fees. In April 2023, Orange home prices were down 5.1% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $950K. On average, homes in Orange sell after 36 days on the market compared to 20 days last year. There were 54 homes sold in April this year, down from 101 last year. An expensive house is hard to afford for some people, that’s why a co-ownership is common option to purchase property in the City of Orange. Generally, City of Orange Partition Attorneys find partition action to be the best remedy for disputing joint owners in four broad categories:

  • Parent-Child shared tenants in common in real estate;
  • Brother-Sister shared tenants in common in real estate;
  • Investor-Investor shared tenants in common in real estate; and
  • Significant others’ shared tenants in common in real estate;
What is a Partition Action in California?

A partition action is a judicially-supervised forced sale of real estate. In California, each co-owner has an “absolute” right to partition the property. “Ordinarily, if the party seeking partition is shown to be a tenant in common, and as such entitled to the possession of the land sought to be partitioned, the right to partition is absolute, and cannot be denied, ‘either because of any supposed difficulty, nor on the suggestion that the interest of the co-tenants will be promoted by refusing the application nor temporarily postponing the action.” (Priddel v. Shankie (1945) 69 Cal.App.2d 319, 325 (emphasis added).) Thus, any owner of real estate (whether 5%, 50%, or 95%) has the right to bring a partition action in California.

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. The best City of Orange 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 City of Orange 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 City of Orange Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

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 City of Orange Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Heber v. Yaeger

Agreements between parties often have clauses or provisions that may be ambiguous. Parties can interpret the agreement in different ways, and if a lawsuit is filed, they would have to argue for that interpretation before a court. It is possible for an agreement to be clear-cut, but that is fairly rare.

For property agreements, the terms are usually about the distribution and responsibilities of ownership. When it comes to partitions, this may get tricky if terms of the agreement change in a that could restrict or remove a co-tenant's right to partition.

Heber and Yaeger were joint owners of the property at issue in Heber v. Yaeger (1967) 251 Cal.App.2d 258, and Yaeger also owned a remainder estate in the three parcels of the property that were under contention. (Id., at 260-261.) The parties’ interests were vested by an agreement between them, made on August 10, 1944. (Id., at 261.)

Heber sued Yaeger for declaratory relief and for an accounting. (Id.) The trial court ruled that Heber had a life estate with a one-half interest in the property. (Id.) Yaeger appealed, and the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s ruling. (Id.)

Following that lawsuit, Yaeger operated the property and paid Heber from its proceeds. (Id.) In 1958, Heber started another lawsuit for an accounting, specifically for a parcel on the property known as the Citrus Ranch Property. (Id.) Heber’s attorney wrote a letter to Yaeger’s attorney, expressing that Heber would waive future income from the Citrus Ranch Property as long as Yaeger operated the property as a citrus ranch and did not charge her with any cost or expense of the property. (Id.) The parties accepted the suggestion of the letter, and the lawsuit was dismissed. (Id.)

Later, Heber sued Yaeger for partition and for an accounting. (Id.) Yaeger moved for summary judgment, arguing that Heber waived her right to partition, and there should not be an accounting because of Heber’s agreement in 1958 to not take proceeds from the Citrus Ranch Property. (Id.) The trial court granted Yaeger’s motion for summary judgment. (Id.) Heber appealed, and the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s judgment (Id., at 265.)

Heber is a cautionary tale on ambiguous property agreements that are seen all the time. Parties may interpret property agreements in different ways that are convenient to them. Both interpretations may even be seen as potentially correct readings of the agreement. The parties, however, ultimately have the responsibility of convincing the court.

Yaeger argued that summary judgment denying partition was proper because Heber’s right to partition was waived due to their agreements made in 1944 and 1958. (Id., at 262.) Generally, a co-tenant's right to partition is absolute unless an agreement states otherwise. (Id.) The Court of Appeal concluded that neither the 1944 agreement nor the 1958 agreement clearly indicate an intention to restrict partition rights. (Id., at 263.)

Under the parties’ 1944 agreement, the parties were entitled to possess and operate the property, they were not required to operate the property. (Id.) Examining the 1958 letter, the Court of Appeal also held that this agreement did not clearly affect the right to partition. (Id.) The Court of Appeal found that there were triable issues of fact which would mean summary judgment was improper, writing:

“The 1958 letter-agreement did not confer or impose additional rights or obligations upon the parties which proscribed the right to partition . . . Instead, by that agreement plaintiff waived her right to any income from that property during the time it was operated as a citrus ranch by defendant provided she was not charged any portion of the costs or expenses of ownership or operation thereof during that time . . . On the other hand, the agreement does not purport to deprive plaintiff of her right as a co-tenant to participate in the operation of the property. Any contention of defendant to the contrary must be premised upon an alleged ambiguity or uncertainty in the agreement with consequent proof of the intention of the parties in the premises and the incident triable issue of fact. Defendant's contention the provisions of the 1944 and 1958 agreements respecting particular uses of the property implied a waiver of the right of the parties to partition is predicated upon triable issues of fact respecting the intention of the parties to those agreements.” (Id., at 263-264.)

As for the accounting claim, the Court of Appeal agreed that Heber was not entitled to an accounting of the Citrus Ranch Property. (Id., at 264.) The other parcels at issue, however, were a different story since Heber received proceeds from those parcels. (Id.) Heber claimed that Yaeger was the manager in control of these parcels, and Yaeger did not bring up any evidence to the contrary. (Id., at 265.) If Yaeger was the manager, she would be under a duty to account to Heber for rents and profits. (Id.)

Yaeger argued that Heber was not entitled to an accounting because an accounting was not necessary. (Id.) Yaeger contended that books and records about the management of the properties were available to Heber and her attorney. (Id.)

The Court of Appeal ruled that there were still triable issues of fact on the accounting claim. (Id.) There were questions about whether Yaeger’s accounts complied with the 1944 agreement, whether the information in those records was correct, and whether the expenditures recorded were properly charged. (Id.) Heber brought all of these issues before the trial court when she opposed Yaeger’s summary judgment motion, and Yaeger denied these claims but did not show any supporting evidence. (Id.) Finding that there were triable issues of material fact, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s summary judgment motion. (Id., at 266.)

Heber is illustrative of how summary judgment works in a partition lawsuit setting. As long as there are questions surrounding important facts in the case, a court should not grant summary judgment. Courts are there to decide on the legal issues of the case, and facts that are vital to deciding on legal issues cannot be ambiguous.

Heber shows that many issues of fact must be resolved when it comes to partitions. Agreements can often be ambiguous, especially when it comes to property ownership. It is up to the parties to prove to the court that their interpretation is the viewpoint the court should take.

How Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen in Heber, partition actions are often reliant on agreements and interpretations of those agreements. The opposing parties will likely have differing viewpoints on what rules and responsibilities an agreement created. It is vital that parties are prepared with evidence to persuade the court of their viewpoints.

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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Newport Beach, CA 92660

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