Rancho Cucamonga Partition Lawyers

Rancho Cucamonga is located south of the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest in San Bernardino County. It is well known for being home to the Casa de Rancho Cucamonga. Rancho Cucamonga residents often own real estate jointly with another. These relationships can turn sour when co-owners disagree over the use of their shared property or properties. The California Civil Code of Procedure allows real property to be partitioned when these irreconcilable differences emerge. If common ownership becomes a problem, then speaking with a Rancho Cucamonga Partition Attorney is essential to understanding your rights as a cotenant. There are at least four scenarios where speaking to a Rancho Cucamonga Partition Lawyer should be considered:

  • Co-owned real estate one person wants to sell;
  • Partnership real estate one person wants to sell;
  • Shared real estate one person wants to sell; and
  • Split real estate one person wants to sell;
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 Rancho Cucamonga Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

Generally, the first step in the partition lawsuit process is not a lawsuit, but an earnest attempt to resolve the matter informally, such as through a partition agreement. Only when it is clear that litigation is the only option, is it clear that a partition lawsuit is appropriate.

When it is clear that a partition lawsuit is necessary, then the process begins with the filing of a complaint in the county where the property is located. There are several technical requirements for the partition complaint, and many important steps that must be taken during the lawsuit to ensure that the process is managed effectively.

In a partition lawsuit, there are generally four different steps. First, the court determines each party's ownership interests. Second, the court will decide on the manner of sale. Third, the court will order the property be sold. Fourth, the proceeds from the sale will be divided between the parties based on their relative contributions to the property.

While some may believe that inherited property cannot be partitioned, this is incorrect. Instead, when the property is owned as the result of an inheritance, there may be an additional step for an appraisal, and a right of first refusal, as provided by the Uniform Partition of Heirs Act. Under this act, where a co-tenant requests partition by sale, the law gives the non-partition owner the option to buy all of the interests of the co-tenants who requested the sale. A top Rancho Cucamonga Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Recover Attorneys’ Fees in a Partition Action?

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.)

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

What Are Claims for “Contribution”?

Before the sales proceeds are distributed among the parties, a court-ordered accounting will determine the charges and credits upon each co-owner’s interest. These credits are taken out of the net proceeds before the balance is divided equally. (Southern Adjustment Bureau, Inc. v. Nelson (1964) 230 Cal.App.2d 539 (“Nelson”).)

“When a cotenant makes advances from his own pocket to preserve the common estate, his investment in the property increases by the entire amount advanced. Upon sale of the estate, he is entitled to his reimbursement before the balance is equally divided.” (Nelson, 230 Cal.App.2d, at p. 541, citing William v. Koyer (1914) 168 Cal.369.)

As such, a party to a partition action must produce and gather their evidence and make sure that it is presented to the court so they can receive full credit for the value that they have added to the property. While a party may have a right to these credits under the law, ultimately, they will not be counted unless they can be presented in the proper form. An experienced Rancho Cucamonga Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Ghee v. Pleasant

Generally, when two parties own property together, their ownership relationship can fall into two categories: joint tenancy and tenancy in common. Joint tenants usually share the property equally, while tenants in common do not. This relationship can affect the way courts distribute partitions.

When parties are joint tenants, courts will likely partition the property into equal amounts, since it is presumed that the parties own the property in equal shares. This can seem unfair to a party that contributed more to the property than the other joint tenants, but this is the law. If a party wants to avoid such results, they must be prepared with the proper evidence.

The properties at issue in Ghee v. Pleasant (2015) WL 1641200, were owned by Norastine Ghee and her daughter Alexis Pleasant. (Id., at 1.) One property was located on Sycamore Avenue, while the other was located on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (Id.) Ghee bought the Sycamore property in 1993. (Id.) In 2008, Ghee added Pleasant as an owner in joint tenancy to the deed of the Sycamore property to secure more favorable refinancing. (Id.) In late 2008, Ghee and Pleasant purchased the King property as joint tenants, using the refinancing from the Sycamore property. (Id., at 2.) Ghee made all of the mortgage payments on the properties and paid for most of the down payment. (Id.)

In 2010, the parties decided to take advantage of the “first time buyer” program on the King property. (Id.) Under this program, Pleasant would live in the King property for three years and get a tax refund. (Id.) Pleasant lived on the King property from January 2010 through June 2011 without paying any rent. (Id.)

Pleasant used the King property’s expenses on her taxes, and Ghee used the Sycamore property’s expenses on her taxes. (Id.) Though the King property operated at a loss, the Sycamore property was profitable. (Id.) Pleasant did not ask for any rental income from the properties, and Ghee did not offer her any. (Id.)

In late 2011, Pleasant began claiming that she was an equitable owner of the Sycamore property, demanded that they establish a partnership, and asked for one-half share of the income. (Id.) In July 2011, Pleasant allegedly withdrew all funds from the joint venture’s bank account and blocked Ghee from receiving any money from the properties. (Id.) During the time period of 2008 to 2011, Pleasant had access to a checking account in the name of “A&N Property Management”. (Id.) Ghee, however, said that this was under her account, and Pleasant was merely an additional user. (Id.) In 2011, Ghee changed the name of the account to her name: “Norastine Ghee dba NG Properties.” (Id.)

In January 2012, Ghee sued Pleasant for quiet title and partition. (Id.) Pleasant filed a cross-complaint. (Id., at 3.) Ghee argued that Pleasant had become a joint tenant only to obtain financing, and neither party intended for Pleasant to become an equitable owner of the Sycamore property. (Id.) Pleasant argued that the deed naming them as joint tenants creates a presumption of joint tenancy that cannot be rebutted by secret intentions. (Id.)

Pleasant then moved for nonsuit, which the trial court granted. (Id.) The trial court held the deed created a presumption that Ghee and Pleasant were joint tenants, and Ghee did not have sufficient evidence to rebut this presumption. (Id.) The trial court also concluded that the properties’ partition proceeds should be divided equally among the parties. (Id.) Pleasant dismissed her cross-complaint. (Id.)

In December 2011, the trial court filed an interlocutory judgment for the partition. (Id., at 4.) Afterwards, the properties were sold. (Id.) Ghee appealed, and the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s judgment. (Id.)

Ghee is a cautionary tale of how the type of ownership can affect partitions. Whether the parties are joint tenants or tenants in common, it can change the way the property is distributed. Sometimes, the results may not be as the parties expected or hoped for.

Though the properties were already being sold, the Court of Appeal concluded there was substantial evidence that Ghee and Pleasant held the Sycamore property in joint tenancy. (Id., at 5.) Ghee testified that she conveyed the property to Pleasant because she wanted Pleasant to own the property after Ghee’s death. (Id.) Though Ghee also claimed that this conveyance was solely to get a refinance, that refinance led to the purchase of the King property, which was also jointly held. (Id.) In addition, Ghee and Pleasant were both parties to the loan and named on the trust deed of the Sycamore property. (Id.)

The Court of Appeal also held that the partition of one-half equal shares of the King property was proper, writing:

“. . . each cotenant has an “absolute” right to partition the common property. (LEG Investments v. Boxler (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 484, 493.) Once the court in a partition action has determined that a true joint tenancy exists, it may not order reimbursement or contribution on account of differences in the amounts the parties have paid toward the initial acquisition of the property. If one joint tenant has advanced funds on behalf of the other and there is an agreement between them for reimbursement in the event of sale of the property, that agreement can be enforced by the court. However, by definition joint tenancy ownership means equal ownership (Civ.Code, § 683), and in the absence of an agreement for ownership shares other than equal halves, there is no [sic] any authority which authorizes reimbursement on account of unequal contributions to the property. . .” (Id., at 5.)

Ghee requested a remand to determine whether she was entitled to more than a one-half share of the King property, arguing that she made larger contributions. (Id., at 6.) The Court of Appeal denied this request since Ghee did not have any evidence of an agreement that her greater contributions would give her more than a one-half interest. (Id.) The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s one-half partition of the King property. (Id.)

Ghee illustrates how a joint tenancy can affect a partition. Due to Ghee not having an agreement where she would have ownership over more than half of the property, the law presumed that the parties each own one-half of the property. It did not matter that Ghee contributed the most to acquiring and maintaining the property. It was up to Ghee to rebut the law’s presumption, and she had no evidence to do so.

How Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen in Ghee, partition law is full of intricacies that can catch an unwary party off guard. Courts may take into consideration certain aspects of the parties that most people normally wouldn’t regard while planning for a partition, such as their ownership relationships with each other. Importantly, the type of ownership can dictate how the property is distributed. It is vital for parties to understand how their relationships with the other side can affect their legal case.

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.

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