Palmdale Partition Lawyers

The City of Palmdale was first established in 1886 by a group of Swiss and German families who came from the Midwest. Between the 1980s and 1990s during the housing market growth and recession, Palmdale's population increased as housing became more affordable. Today, over 60% of Palmdale's housing units are owner-occupied, suggesting that many Palmdale homes are jointly owned. According to Redfin, in May 2023, Palmdale home prices were down 7.8% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $475K. On average, homes in Palmdale sell after 28 days on the market compared to 23 days last year. There were 149 homes sold in May this year, down from 196 last year. Residents of Palmdale who own real estate may face disputes with co-owners. Generally, the best Sacramento Partition Lawyers usually find partition action to be the best remedy for disputing co-owners in four broad categories:

  • Inherited real estate where only one party wants to sell;
  • Former romantic partners who jointly own real estate where only one party wants to sell;
  • Jointly owned real estate where only one party wants to sell;
  • Partnership real estate where only one party wants to sell;
What Is a Partition Action in California?

Generally, partition is any division of real property between co-owners, where each co-owner obtains an ownership interest. A partition action is the forced sale of real property by a co-owner under the court’s supervision. Partition merely determines and allocates to the parties their respective interests in the property. (Cunha v. Hughes (1898) 122 Cal. 111.)

In the partitioning of property, the common interests in the property are segregated or terminated. (Summers v. Superior Court (Wan Fen Tan) 24 Cal.App.5th 138.) Partitions are generally favored by the and may occur by an agreement between the co-owners or by a judgment in an action. Typically, a partition may be made by either a physical division or sale of the property. in many modern transactions, a partition of the property by sale is preferable since often times, a division of the property will result in parcels that are not equal to the value of the whole property before the division. (Cummings v. Dessel (2017) 13 Cal.App.5th 589, 597.) Also, a “physical division may be impossible due to zoning regulations or may be highly impractical.” (Butte Creek Island Ranch v. Crim (1982) 136 Cal.App.3d 360, 365.) The best Palmdale Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

The first step to a partition action is to petition the court for a partition of the property. In order to petition the court, a litigant must file a legally valid complaint for partition. As noted above, the litigant must be a co-owner of the subject property in order to have standing to file a partition complaint. (CCP § 872.210.)

Second, after filing the complaint, a litigant must then obtain an interlocutory judgment of partition in the correct procedural form. An interlocutory judgment is a temporary judgment ordered before the close of trial during the litigation of the case. Under Code of Civil Procedure section 872.720, the court must enter an interlocutory judgment when the court finds that the Plaintiff in a partition action is entitled to a partition. In order to obtain an interlocutory judgment, a litigant must establish their right to partition by proving they have an ownership interest in the subject property.

Third, if the court finds that a litigant has an ownership interest in the subject property and grants an interlocutory judgment of partition, the court will then appoint a partition referee to oversee the partition of the property. A partition referee is a neutral third party appointed by and accountable to the court to assist the court in matters related to partition actions. (CCP § 873.510.)

Fourth, Once the referee has provided the court with their report, the court must determine the proper method for partitioning the subject property. The court determines the proper method of partition by determining which method of partition is more equitable.

Fifth, once the court has determined the proper method of partitioning the subject property, the court will then order a final judgment of partition, and the property will be partitioned according to the proper method determined by the court. If the court orders a partition by sale, there must be an accounting to distribute the proceeds of the sale in strict compliance with the requirements of the evidentiary code. A top Palmdale Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

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

What Are Claims for “Contribution”?

Section 874.040 gives courts only two options in apportioning the costs and fees of partition: by ownership interest or by some other equitable apportionment. (see Finney v. Gomez (2003) 111 Cal.App.4th 527, 545 (Finney).)

Notably, appellate courts have found the statutory language of Section 874.040 to give courts broad and equitable discretion. (Lin v. Jeng (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 1008.)

This sentiment that the record must support the allocation of attorney’s fees in an amount greater than disclosed by title is echoed in Stutz, where the appellate court held the trial court erred in apportioning 100% of the attorney’s fees and costs of a partition to the respondent. The appellate court recognized that trial courts are free to apportion fees and costs in an equitable manner yet held that the record must support such an arrangement in “any manner other than according to the respective interests of the parties in the property.” (Stutz, 122 Cal.App.3d 1, 5.)

For example, where a party refuses to simply resolve the issue where the other party was willing to sell, then a court has the authority to order a different amount of fees than disclosed by title. (Forrest v. Elam (1979) 88 Cal.App.3d 164, 174.) In other words, the resistance to selling the property may be a factor that a court considers in awarding attorneys’ fees in a partition action. A knowledgeable Palmdeale Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

A Partition Case Study: Central Korean Evangelical Church v. Superior Court

The partition statute authorizes co-owners of personal property or of “an estate of inheritance, an estate for life, or an estate for years in real property” to commence and maintain a partition action. (CCP § 872.210, subd. (a).) Co-owners of undivided interests in real property, such as joint tenants or tenants in common, may therefore seek partition. ‘Cotenancy’ is the legal term commonly used to designate ownership by several persons of undivided interests in real property. The cotenants own the property by one joint title and in one right, and thus have one common freehold. Central Korean Evangelical Church v. Superior Court (2015) 2015 WL 4321998 involves a dispute over whether there was a valid joint tenancy ownership over that would permit a partition by sale.

Petitioners Central Korean Evangelical Church (CKEC) challenged orders made on remand from a previous appeal, Pacific Southwest District of the Church of the Brethren v. Church of the Brethren, Inc. (June 23, 2014, No. B247729 [nonpub. opn.] ). CKEC argued the trial court improperly appointed a partition referee and reopened issues resolved in a judgment that had been partially affirmed on appeal. Real Party in Interest Pacific Southwest District of the Church of the Brethren (PSWD) alleged that the partition action could not be maintained at all since, in the prior appeal, the Court of Appeal for the Second District held that the parties did not have a common undivided interest in the church property at issue.

The subject property consists of two adjoining parcels. Parcel 1 is comprised of lot 44, on which the church parking lot is located. Parcel 2, on which the church building stands, consists of lots 48 and 49. CKEC owned lots 48 and 49 since 1989. In 1989, CKEC was accepted as a member congregation of the Church of the Brethren at PSWD’s district conference. In 1990, PSWD acquired lots 44 in its own name. In May 1992, CKEC executed a “Covenant and Agreement to Hold Property as One Parcel” (“covenant”), in which they agreed that lots 44, 48, and 49 shall be held as one parcel and no portion shall be sold separately. The covenant could only be released by the authority of the Superintendent of Building of the City of Los Angeles. In December 1992, PSWD transferred lot 44 to itself and CKEC.

CKEC voted to disassociate from the Church of the Brethren in 2007. In 2011, PSWD sued CKEC for breach of trust under Corporations Code section 9142, and sought injunctive and declaratory relief. PSWD alleged that PSD’s governing document, “Manual of Organization and Polity” (“manual”), impressed a trust on local church property in favor of the general church. CKEC cross-complained for partition by sale, on the ground that CKEC and PSWD each owned a 50 percent undivided interest in parcel 1 based on the 1992 deed, which transferred title to both. The trial court entered judgment in favor of CKEC. It determined that CKEC owned parcel 2 (lots 48 and 49), and CKEC and PSWD owned parcel 1 (lot 44) jointly, as tenants in common. The trial court ordered that the sale of the church property. In the former appeal, the partition order was affirmed and the Court of Appeal held that the manual created an enforceable trust in favor of PSWD in lot 44, but not in lots 48 and 49.

In this appeal, PSWD asked the Court of Appeal to reconsider the partition order. In the former appeal, the partition action was justified solely because the trial court found that PSWD and CKEC owned lot 44 as tenants in common based on the 1992 deed, by which PSWD transferred lot 44 to itself and CKEC. But the Court of Appeal in the former case held that PSWD was estopped from asserting a trust over lots 48 and 49 because CKEC joined the Church of the Brethren on assurances that its pre-existing property would not be subject to the trust. From that prior holding, the Court of Appeal for the Second District reasoned that CKEC had no ownership interest in lot 44 (parcel 1), and PSWD had no ownership interest in lots 48 and 49 (parcel 2). Because there was no common undivided interest in either parcel, CKEC could not maintain a partition action.

CKEC proposed that a common interest existed because of the covenant to hold the three lots as one parcel, but did not cite any authority to support its position. As a result, the Second District Court of Appeal held that covenant was not and cannot be the basis for the partition action because it does not create undivided co-ownership interests in all three lots. The sole purpose of the covenant was to create a joint building site on CKEC's promise that the lots would not be sold separately. Unless released by the City of Los Angeles, the covenant bound CKEC, but on its face it did not bind PSWD. Although the covenant provided an incentive to cooperate in a joint sale of the three lots, the covenant did not entitle CKEC to force a partition sale.

As a result, the Court of Appeal directed that trial court to vacate all judgments and orders related to partition or approving a partition sale, and to enter a judgment declaring PSWD to be the sole owner of lot 44, and CKEC to be the sole owner of lots 48 and 49.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

Partition actions can be complex as they involve property rights and ownership interests among multiple owners that often change over time. Just as legal title to land changes, the relationship between co-owners changes and can often evolve into a legal dispute. Every partition case is unique, and it is important to consult with a qualified attorney to assess the specific circumstances and advise on the best course of action. By taking proactive steps and seeking legal guidance, individuals can navigate partition actions effectively and protect their interests in real property by exercising their right to partition as a co-owner. If you are considering partition as an option, then you may benefit from good legal advice on the topic. Please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C., for an initial consultation.

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