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Pasadena Partition Lawyers

The City of Pasadena was originally inhabited by Native Americans and later colonized by the Spanish in the 1770s. In the 1880s, Pasadena became known as a resort town which led to the development of new neighborhoods and business districts. Today, Pasadena is the most populous city in the San Gabriel Valley. According to RedFin, In May 2023, Pasadena home prices were down 13.6% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $1.1M. On average, homes in Pasadena sell after 29 days on the market compared to 28 days last year. There were 102 homes sold in May this year, down from 143 last year. As a town with a rich history, residents of Pasadena often own homes with others due to inheritance, which can lead to disputes with co-owners. Generally, the best Pasadena Partition Lawyers usually find partition action to be the best remedy for disputing co-owners in four broad categories:

  • Investor-Investor shared ownership of property;
  • Boyfriend-Girlfriend share ownership of property;
  • Inherited ownership of property; and
  • Parent-child shared ownership of property
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 Pasadena Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What are the Steps in a Partition Action?

Generally, a partition action has four stages, which include (1) the filing of the lawsuit (2) an appraisal of the Property under the Partition of Real Property Act, (3) the determination of the parties' interests, and appointment of a referee to sell the property, and (4) the division of the proceeds from the sale.

In California partition actions, the court must enter an interlocutory judgment where the court finds that the Plaintiff in a partition action is entitled to a partition. (CCP § 872.720.) The interlocutory judgment "determines the interests of the parties in the property and, unless it is to be later determined, the manner of partition." (CCP § 872.720.) A top Pasadena Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can you Recover Attorneys' Fees in a Partition Action?

The Court may award attorneys' fees in the partition action that are paid by a party to the action for the common benefit of all the co-owners. (CCP § 872.010.) The Supreme Court has spoken on this issue directly, holding that under former section 796, the predecessor to the current partition cost statute, "counsel fees may be allowed ... for services rendered for the common benefit even in contested partition suits." (Capuccio v. Caire (1932) 215 Cal. 518, 528-529 (Capuccio).)

Moreover, cases interpreting those sections continue to permit the allocation of attorney fees in contested partition actions. (Forrest v. Elam (1979) 88 Cal.App.3d 164, 174.) From these authorities it is evident that the "common benefit" in a partition action is the proper distribution of the "'respective shares and interests in said property by the ultimate judgment of the court.' " (Capuccio, 215 Cal. at p. 528.) This sometimes will require that " 'controversies' " be " 'litigated' " to correctly determine those shares and interests but this ultimately can be for the common benefit as well. The fact that a party resists the partition does not change this. (See Randell v. Randell (1935) 4 Cal.2d 575, 582 ["The presence and litigation of controversial issues between all the parties does not preclude the allowance of attorney's fees for services connected with such issues where such services are found to be for the common benefit of the parties."].) A knowledgeable Pasadena 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. (Hunterv. Schultz (1966) 240 Cal.App.2d 24.) An experienced Pasadena Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: McCloy v. Slater

When a court gives an interlocutory judgment, the court may order a partition by division. In a partition by division, if the division cannot be made equally, compensation may be required to be made by one party to the other (CCP § 873.250; 872.140). The following paragraphs discuss how the Court of Appeal determines whether a trial court abused its discretion when determining the compensation due from one party to another in McCloy v. Slater (2010) 2010 WL 4121638.

In McCloy, Anthony Donald McCloy filed a complaint against his mother, Barbara Slater, and his great aunt, Dorothy Slater (the Slaters) for partition of three parcels of real property in El Segundo. McCloy alleged that he had an undivided one-third interest in the parcels as a tenant in common, and he sought partition by division, or in the alternative, by sale.

The parties agreed that the trial court could decide the matter based on their list of stipulated facts and exhibits and trial briefs. Title to the three parcels was held by the three parties in common, each with an undivided one-third interest in the properties. Parcel no. 1 was approximately 5,130 square feet, improved with a 928-square-foot residence valued at $376,200; parcel no.2 was approximately 5,700 square feet of raw land with no utilities and a value of $338,580, less the cost of bringing utilities to the property, which was $63,000; and parcel no.3 was an alleyway of approximately 6,500 square feet allowing access to parcel nos.1 and 2 and to two other parcels with no value.

The parties also agreed that McCloy was entitled to partition, but they disagreed on how it should be accomplished. The Slaters argued for a partition by sale, believing it was more equitable because they "wanted to sell the properties and move." McCloy sought partition by division, "not wanting to sell the properties at this time given the market conditions."

McCloy asked that he be awarded parcel no.2 and portion of parcel no.3, with a utility easement over the remainder of parcel no.3. Recognizing that he would be required to compensate the Slaters under his proposed division, McCloy maintained that he should pay $58,320, subject to further adjustment for the costs of partition. The Slaters did not contest McCloy's proposed division or his calculations, therefore the only issue left for the trial court to determine was whether partition should be by division or sale.

The trial court concluded that the sale of the entire property and division of the ensuing proceeds was not more equitable than division of the property in kind (by division). McCloy's proposed division was adopted. The court also determined that McCloy should pay the Slaters $100,320, unpersuaded that the amount should be reduced by the equivalent of what would be [the Slaters'] share of the cost of installing utilities on Parcel No.2. There was no indication that the parties had previously agreed to such improvements and the utilities would be a sole benefit to McCloy. The court concluded that requiring the Slaters to participate in the endeavor was inequitable. McCloy appealed.

The Court of Appeal for the Second District noted that a trial court's exercise of its equitable discretion is subject to review only for abuse or failure to exercise that discretion. Zarrahy v. Zarrahy, 252 Cal. Rptr. 20, 22 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 1988). McCloy's contention on appeal was that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to determine the compensation due from him to the Slaters in accordance with the parties' stipulation that the value of parcel no. 2, which did not have utilities, was $338,500 less the $63,000 cost to install them. The Court of Appeal determined that McCloy's contention was correct.

While the Court of Appeal found that the trial court could conclude that it would be "manifestly inequitable" to require the Slaters to share in the cost of bringing utilities on the property, it also found that the trial court failed to recognize that the stipulated value of parcel no.2 included the existence of utilities. The stipulated facts provided that the value of parcel no.2 was $338,580, less the cost to bring utilities.

The trial court used the stipulated value, an amount that assumed the existence of utilities, to calculate payment to the Slaters, whilst no utilities existed on the property. Thus, the Court of Appeal found that the trial court failed to value the parcel in accordance with the stipulated facts and that failure constituted an abuse of its discretion.

The Slaters attempted to avoid the adjustment by arguing that McCloy forfeited his right to claim on appeal that the compensation is excessive because he did not move for a new trial in the trial court. Although the Slaters were correct that a party arguing excessive or inadequate damages ordinarily must move for a new trial in the trial court to preserve the right to raise the issue on appeal, the rule only applies when "the challenge turns on the credibility of witnesses, conflicting evidence, or other factual questions." County of Los Angeles v. S. Cal. Edison Co., 5 Cal. Rptr. 3d 575, 585 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 2003).

Here however, the trial court's determination did not depend on the credibility of witnesses, conflicting evidence, or other factual questions, but rather on an application of the parties' stipulated facts.

The Slaters also tried to argue that the trial court, sitting in equity, had the discretion to choose not to account for the cost of installing utilities on parcel no.2 and could have taken into consideration the fact that McCloy received his interest as a gift. The Court of Appeal did not accept this argument as the trial court's stated reason for not accounting for utility installation was that only McCloy would benefit from the utilities, not that his interest was a gift.

Therefore, the Court of Appeal reversed the interlocutory judgment setting the amount due from McCloy to the Slaters and remanded with instructions for the trial court to reduce the amount by $42,000. (The Slaters' two-thirds' share of the $63,000 cost of bringing utilities to parcel no. 2.)

A court can exercise equitable discretion when entering a judgment for partition; however, that discretion is subject to review for abuse or failure to exercise that discretion. Here, the Court of Appeal found that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering McCloy to pay an amount that ran contradictory to the parties' stipulated facts.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

A court's determination of ownership interests in a property depends on the facts and circumstances of each particular case. Factors such as agreements and who pays for certain expenses for the property can ultimately affect the outcome of a partition case. If you are considering partition as an option, or find yourself defending one, 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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