Pomona Partition Lawyers

The City of Pomona was first settled in the 1830s and later became a citrus-growing region. In its early days, Pomona had one of the highest per-capita levels of income in the United States. Today, the City of Pomona is the seventh most populous city in Los Angeles County. As a bustling town, residents of Pomona often own homes with others, which can lead to disputes with co-owners. Generally, the best Pomona Partition Lawyers 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?

Partition is a court-ordered process where a property owner forces a sale of jointly owned real estate. Essentially, a partition action exists to allows people who own real estate together to take their share of the equity and go their separate ways. But, as simple as this seems, partition actions can often become complex lawsuits. Disputes commonly arise as to what type of partition may be sought and the process for determining ownership interests.

For example, “Julie” bought a house with her boyfriend, “Shawn,” thinking that they would get married one day. Later, after they had bought the house, Julie realized that her boyfriend was not the right person for her. Because Julie wanted to move on in her life, she also wanted to sell the house she bought with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend, however, was mad at Julie for breaking up with him, and so refused to agree to sell the house. Because they were not married, Julie could not go to a divorce lawyer, and because they both did not agree to sell, a realtor could not help Julie. Julie felt trapped. Julie then, however, found a partition lawyer and was able to get the house sold so she could move on with her life. A partition lawyer got the job done. The best Pomona 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 Pomona 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 Pomona Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What are claims for “contribution”?

An action for partition may include an accounting so that the respective rights of the parties can be adjusted and settled. (Lazzarevich v. Lazzarevich, (1952) 39 Cal. 2d 48, 50–51.) A cotenant who has advanced fund to pay common expenses is entitled to reimbursement from the sale proceeds before the balance is divided and distributed to the cotenants. (Southern Adjustment Bureau, Inc. v. Nelson (1964) 230 Cal. App. 2d 539, 541.) A cotenant out of possession can require the cotenant in possession to account for rents and profits or other compensatory adjustment in the division of sale proceeds. (CCP § 872.430.) An experienced Pomona Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Lau v. Lau (2013)

A partition is a legal procedure in which the court shall segregate and terminate the common interests in a piece of real property. A co-owner of property held in concurrent interests has the right to partition unless barred from doing so by a waiver. (CCP § 872.710(b).) The following paragraphs discuss how the court determines whether the right to partition has been waived in Lau v. Lau (2013) 2013 WL 4017015.

In Lau, David Lau brought suit against his sister Dora Lau, seeking to partition a house that was purchased with funds from David and Dora’s parents. Dora lived in the house for a while and she and one son continued to use the house on occasion. David and his parents stayed on the property from time to time. Title to the property was held by the family at the time of the parents’ death, after which it passed to David and Dora. At the time of trial, title was held by Dora, as the trustee of a family trust, and by David, with each having a one-half interest as tenants in common.

At trial, Dora testified that her and David’s parents purchased the property so that the family would have a home in the United States as well as an American location for the operations of the family company, Crown Records. Crown Records was a once-successful Hong-Kong based music company that the parents had started in the 1950s. Crown Records, Inc. USA was formed to distribute audio and video recordings produced by Crown Records.

Dora introduced exhibits at trial that showed since 1991, the business address used for the United States-based company was that of the property subject to this suit. Records, tapes, and other Crown Records materials were stored in the garage of the property. After the death of the parties’ mother in 2007, the company had ceased business and there been no sale of recordings since 2008. At the time of trial, the California Secretary of State website listed the company as suspended.

After the death of the mother, Dora initiated a lawsuit in Hong Kong contending that David was mismanaging the company and she was seeking to recover Crown Records’ property and publishing rights. Dora testified that her reason for filing the lawsuit was to gain control of Crown Records and continue to distribute its products, whereas David testified that Crown Records had been dissolved and there were no plans to resume business in the future.

The trial court stated that although the right to partition could be waived, there was no basis to find waiver given the facts of the case. It found that the parents purchased the property not just to house Crown Records products, but also for the purpose of having a residence in the United States for the family. The property’s former use as a center of operations for the American company was incidental to its use as a residence. Accordingly, the trial court found that the property was subject to partition and entered an interlocutory judgement in favor of David in May 2012. Dora appealed.

Dora’s appeal centered on the argument, as it did in the trial court, that the court should have found that the partition was waived. Her argument was that a finding of waiver was required because the purpose of buying the property was to serve as the American center of operations for Crown Records. Dora was basing this argument on the rule “that partition cannot be had without the consent of all parties where it would conflict with a prior agreement of the parties as to the use of the property.” Pine v. Tiedt, 43 Cal. Rptr. 184, 188 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 1965). Dora further contended that the court would have found waiver had it not improperly admitted evidence in favor of her brother and excluded evidence favorable to her.

The California Second District Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court and affirmed the trial court’s interlocutory judgment. Although the Court of Appeal agreed with Dora that the trial court abused its discretion on a number of evidentiary rulings, it determined that there was still no question that the judgement was still supported by substantial evidence. The Court of Appeal went further to say that the trial court’s decision to decline to stay the action pending the Hong Kong litigation was not erroneous as the trial court’s decision did not depend on the status of the lawsuit.

The property was not an asset of Crown Records, nor was it leased to the company. David had testified at trial that he never agreed that the property could be used indefinitely by Crown Records and the property had not been used by Crown Records since 2008. As such, the Court of Appeal concluded that trial court rightfully found that the primary use of the property was as a residence. Even if Dora succeeded in her suit in Hong Kong, that was not a sufficient reason to deny the “much favored remedy of partition.” Dora could find another location well suited for the business, just as another residence has been used to house and distribute Crown Records products prior to the purchase of the property center to this suit.

Courts may set aside or dismiss a partition action if there is a valid waiver. Here, based on the record and the fact the property in question was not just bought and used for business, but rather as a residence, the Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court’s decision was supported by the evidence and no waiver had occurred.

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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