The Underwood Law Firm offers legal services to its clients in the fields of partition actions, eminent domain proceedings, real estate disputes, business disputes, the Surplus Land Act, and Civil Litigation generally. The Firm is very selective in the matters and clients that it takes in order to ensure that it can offer the highest quality legal services available.
The Firm’s attorneys care a great deal about its clients and want to make sure that they receive the value and attention they deserve from a lawyer. While other law firms may take whatever walks in the door, the Firm is careful to choose only those cases where it feels confident that the client is likely to obtain a great outcome and build a long-term relationship with the firm.Partition Actions
A partition action is the court-supervised sale of jointly owned property. These types of lawsuits generally have four parts. It begins with a determination of the parties’ ownership interests, then there is a determination of credits and debits called an accounting, a sale of the property, and finally a dispersal of funds based on the parties’ interests and their relative claims for contribution to the property. While there are well-defined parts to the process, there are many twists and turns to a partition action for which an inexperienced lawyer may be unaware. A top partition lawyer can help guide a property owner through this process.
These types of lawsuits are common in a number of circumstances. One instance is when two parties jointly inherit property, but cannot decide what to do with the real estate after receiving the inheritance. For example, if “Bruce” and “Janet” jointly inherit a home from their parents, Bruce may want to sell the home to invest the proceeds in his children’s college funds, while Janet may wish to keep the house in the family for personal reasons. In such an instance, a partition action can help in resolving the situation by forcing Janet to either buy the property at an appraised price, or forcing a sale to a third-party.
Another instance is when two persons buy property together in anticipation of a longer relationship that fails to materialize. As an example, suppose that “Shawn” and “Julie” buy a house together while they are dating thinking that they will one day get married. After buying the house, however, Julie realizes that Shawn is not right for her and decides to leave. When Julie asks Shawn to sell the house so she can move on, Shawn refuses because of his anger due to the end of the relationship. At that point, Julie is stuck because she cannot go to a family law attorney, and cannot sell the property with a realtor unless both parties agree. In most instances, however, a partition action is a good solution for this problem.
In yet another instance, a parent buys real estate for a child with the understanding that the child will pay the mortgage, but the child fails to pay as agreed. For example, if “Sara” has been giving money to her son, “Tom,” for rent in an expensive city like San Francisco or Los Angeles, then both may be better served by buying a house and spending that money on a mortgage instead. So, Sara and Tom agree that Sara will put the down payment on the house and Tom will pay the mortgage every month, and they will both own the house as an early inheritance. But, Tom is not quite mature enough to manage his money, and Sara ends up being forced to pay both Tom’s mortgage and her own. This is too much for Sara to handle, and not the deal she signed up for. In that instance, if Tom refuses to sell, Sara can resolve her problem in most instances through a partition action.Eminent Domain Proceedings
Eminent Domain is the power of a governmental entity to take private property for public use. As contained in both the United States and California Constitutions, the power of eminent domain is both very powerful but also contains certain limitations that governmental entities must respect. Specifically, any governmental entity exercising the power of eminent domain must provide “just compensation” to a property owner for the “taking.” Generally, eminent domain issues arise in one of two circumstances.
First, eminent domain arises in the context of a governmental entity formally choosing to take private property as part of a planned public project. These types of public projects most commonly involve a freeway or interchange enlargement, a flood control or water development project, the construction or installation of power lines or other electricity related issues. The number of instances of public projects is so varied and vast as to defy easy enumeration. Nevertheless, in a formal eminent domain process, the government makes a choice to take private property for its own use.
While an eminent domain process may seem straightforward, there are a number of traps for the unwary, especially private property owners who have never had to confront an adversary who has teams of lawyers, professional real estate negotiators, engineers, appraisers, planners, and other bureaucrats. In such an instance, almost all property owners are well-served by independent advice from a lawyer who has practiced in the field, taken cases to trial, and is more than familiar with the ways that property owners may be short-changed by the process.
Second, eminent domain can arise when a governmental entity informally uses or takes private property but refuses to acknowledge the detriment caused and fails to pay just compensation, which is known as “inverse condemnation.” These cases are most commonly associated with flooding issues or destruction from a fire caused by a quasi-governmental entity. While these types of cases are particularly challenging, the firm has taken them to trial to force the governmental entities to take responsibility for the harm caused by their actions.
Ultimately, the Firm seeks to ensure that private property owners are treated fairly by their government and receive value for the property that is commensurate with what is taken from them by the process.Real Estate Litigation
Real estate litigation is the formal process of resolving disputes over the ownership, use, sale, and development of real estate whether through mediation, arbitration, negotiation, or trial. As real estate forms one of the largest bases of wealth for many individuals and businesses, disputes over real estate frequently occur because there is so much at stake.
For most people, real estate forms the greatest source of their personal net worth, and is an important way to pass along wealth from one generation to the next. As a result, a threat to one’s real estate can substantially interfere not only with personal, but also generational, goals. When important property rights are at stake, our firm is there to ensure that your rights are respected. Our firm is experienced in handling cases from negotiations, mediation, and the trial and appeal process.
Generally, the firm is involved with real estate litigation through partition and quiet title actions, and as part of eminent domain lawsuits. In a quiet title actions, a party seeks to protect their rights to real estate by having them established by a court in a county where the real estate is located. Quiet title lawsuits seek to eliminate any and all other adverse interests in a particular piece of property. A quiet title claim is appropriate to establish an interest in real property as against all existing adverse claims or clouds on title. If the party suing is successful in their action, then their title is established by the court, binding, and “good against the world.” As such, these are very powerful lawsuits and an important tool in the real estate litigation tool box.
The Firm represents property owners for a wide variety of property types from single-family homes to multi-family units to vacant land to office buildings to industrial warehouses. In all instances, the firm seeks to provide the most professional representation possible to ensure that a party’s rights are respected.Business Law
Generally, most people think of “business” law as the formal set of law for incorporating and operating a business. That is correct, but not totally complete. Business relationships may be formed any time two or more persons decide to develop or operate real estate together, or invest money in a venture. In California, there are a number of ways to form a business relationship that most people would not consider, and that have far-ranging implications.
The Firm frequently handles matters with business law implications when partnership and shareholder relationships deteriorate. These types of disputes often arise when the owners of the company can no longer agree on the direction for the company, or how to properly divide the company’s profits. Commonly, these disputes involve issues related to the control of the business or the asset, as well as issues related to potential financial improprieties by those in positions of management, and may coincide with financial fraud or breach of contract issues.
The Underwood Law Firm, P.C. is well-versed with these issues and can provide you with a plan to resolve these disputes to your advantage.Surplus Land
In 2019, California passed into law AB 1486 (Ting 2019) to connect developers interested in building affordable housing with surplus local public land that is both available and proper for housing development.
Under AB 1486, local agencies (cities, counties, and special districts) must send notices about available surplus land to (a) California’s Housing and Community Development Department, (b) any local public entity within the jurisdiction where the surplus local land is located, and (c) developers who have notified HCD of their interest in developing affordable housing on surplus local land.Civil Litigation
Civil litigation involves the resolution of disputes through the formal process of going to court, and trial, and the informal process of negotiating and mediating arguments between individuals and businesses. The Underwood Law Firm believes that every client, and every case, deserves to have a plan for success. “Trust Your Gut” is very important in hiring a lawyer. You should feel confident that your lawyer can handle your case successfully.
As such, our attorneys are pro-active about advancing the case, and not re-acting to the other side’s actions. As time is money, it is generally in your best interest to move as quickly as possible so you can move on with the rest of your life. If your attorney is not a veteran trial attorney, then you have no choice and have to accept the other side’s terms.
Although almost all cases in California settle, our attorneys are always ready to go to trial to get our clients the best result. While we believe in settlement, and the value of compromise, we will not shy away from bringing matters to a head at trial if that is in our client’s best interest. As such, we prepare for the best possible presentation of your case based upon the facts and the law.
For example, the rights and division of real estate can be strongly contested. In those instances, it is important to have an attorney who more than familiar with the process to ensure that everything occurs as smoothly as possible, and your rights are protected to the greatest extent possible under California law. For these types of assets, the determination of the value can be complicated and may require the assistance of other professionals such as forensic accountants, experienced appraisers, and other real estate experts. In these instances, each side may have their own experts, and it is necessary to have an attorney familiar with deposing an expert witness.
Moreover, even when the parties are amenable to a negotiated resolution, the process of mediation and negotiation among attorneys has many nuances. The Underwood Law Firm is more than familiar with the opportunities and risks that are a part of the informal resolution process.