Richmond Partition Lawyers

The City of Richmond is located northeastern of San Francisco, directly across San Francisco Bay, and home prices in and around the city of Richmond, CA have risen steadily over the past couple of years. Since buying a house is harder and harder, some people choose to co-own a house with others. The most common co-ownership is boyfriend/girlfriend, parent/child, sibling /sibling. Buying a really property with someone is easier then partitioning a property. When co-owners can’t come to an agreement and one owner would like to sell the real property but the other doesn’t want to sell the property then a partition action might be required. Generally, Richmond Partition Attorneys usually find partition action to be the best remedy for disputing joint owners in four broad categories:

  • Parent-Child shared tenants in common in real estate;
  • Brother-Sister shared tenants in common in real estate;
  • Investor-Investor shared tenants in common in real estate; and
  • Significant others shared tenants in common in real estate;
What Is a Partition Action in California?

A partition action occurs when there are two or more title holders to a piece of property, and these title holders are unable to reach an agreement on splitting the subject property. Typically, a litigant brings a partition action to have the court force the sale of or split the subject property. Therefore, when a piece of personal property is concurrently owned by several people, one of the owners may bring a partition action to have the court divide the subject property. In the past, California courts have partitioned not only real estate but also, shares of stock, cash, and businesses.

Generally, an action for partition can be brought forth by a co-owner of real property and a co-owner of personal property. Notably, a court can partition not only real property or real estate but also personal property of any kind. (CCP § 872.230(a).) The best Richmond 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 Richmond 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 Richmond Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What Are Claims for “Contribution”?

Following the sale of the property, the referee will divide the proceeds of the sale among the parties in according to amounts expended for the "common benefit."

When the sale is confirmed by the court, the court may enter an order about the proceeds of sale. Under the law, the sale proceeds must be applied in a defined order. Specifically, Code of Civil Procedure section 873.820 states that the sale proceeds go towards (a) payment of expenses of the sale, (b) payment of the other costs of partition, (c) payment of any liens on the property in priority, (d) and distribution of the remainder to the parties in proportion to their shares as determined by the court.

Generally, the last part of the priority list includes what is commonly known as an "accounting" or a determination of whether one party has contributed more than their fair share to the property in the form of taxes, improvements, or other benefits for the property. For example, if one party is a 50% owner of the property, but has paid all of the property taxes for the property, then that property owner will have a claim for the remaining 50% above their interest in the property. An experienced partition lawyer will be able to help a co-owner determine their claims to the proceeds and make these arguments to the court in an effective way. An experienced Richmond Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Hadar v. Luria (2023)

How may a party’s decision to represent him or herself in court without an attorney lead to negative consequences in an action to partition real property? The answer largely depends on the particular facts of the case in question. The following paragraphs discuss how one party’s decision to forgo competent legal representation, as well as various blunders, affected the court’s judgment in Hadar v. Luria (2023) 2023 WL 2008778.

In Hadar, Shachar Hadar and Esther Kolyer (“Plaintiffs” or “Respondents”) filed an action against Gershon Luria (“Defendant” or “Appellant”) to partition real property consisting of a multiunit apartment building located in Richmond, California (the “Property”). Although Plaintiffs were represented by legal counsel, Luria represented himself pro se (without legal counsel).

Initially, Plaintiffs owned an undivided 50 percent tenancy-in-common interest in the Property. Luria and his wife, Irit Sanger, owned the remaining undivided 50 percent interest. In their first cause of action, Plaintiffs described the Property and the parties’ respective ownership interests and requested that the Property be partitioned by sale. In their second cause of action, Plaintiffs alleged that Luria and his wife, in performing management duties for the Property, breached their fiduciary duties to Plaintiffs by failing to maintain and preserve an accurate account of the income and expenses; by expending income generated from the Property for expenses not reasonably related to the Property; and by retaining income from the Property beyond the agreed-upon compensation for their management duties.

At trial, the trial court granted Plaintiffs summary judgement on their cause of action for partition of the Property and Luria appealed. On first appeal before the California First District Court of Appeal, the Court reversed the order granting summary adjudication in favor of Plaintiffs on their partition claim. Luria had opposed the Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgement by submitting a declaration stating that the parties had agreed to hold the Property for a minimum of 10 years from the date of purchase.

Plaintiffs objected to Luria’s declaration on the ground that it failed to state the place of the agreement pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 2015.5. Plaintiffs also argued that the evidence did not raise a triable issue of material fact because an agreement to waive the right of partition had to be in writing under the statute of frauds. In reversing the trial court’s grant of summary adjudication, the Court of Appeal concluded that Luria’s declaration sufficiently complied with Code of Civil Procedure section 2015.5. The Court then remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

After remand to the trial court, Plaintiffs again moved for summary adjudication of their partition claim. They submitted evidence to establish that (1) in January 2011, the parties purchased the Property with each side owning an undivided 50 percent interest; (2) there was no written agreement between the parties waiving Plaintiffs’ right of partition; (3) in January 2016, Hadar sent an email to Luria memorializing a phone call between them in which Luria “stated that if we decide[d] to sell the property, you are OK with that”; and (4) due to the location and characteristics of the Property, partition in kind would be impractical and less equitable to both parties.

Regarding Plaintiffs’ second cause of action for breach of fiduciary duties, according to Hadar’s supporting declaration, the parties agreed that Luria would manage the Property for a fee of ten percent of the gross rents. Ownership of the Property was to be transferred to a limited liability company, in which the parties would be co-equal members, however, the plan fell through after Mr. Luria changed his mind. The parties never agreed that the Property would be owned for a required period of time or that the Property could not be sold until a particular date.

In support of Plaintiffs’ second motion for summary judgement, Hadar also claimed that Luria’s propensity for conflict with tenants at the Property had led to multiple lawsuits being filed either against Luria individually or all co-owners collectively. Hadar reiterated that in the January 2016 phone call, later memorialized in an email, Luria had admitted that if Plaintiffs wanted to sell the Property it would be acceptable. Luria had not disputed that he was amenable to Plaintiffs selling the Property.

Luria opposed the motion by claiming that ownership of the Property was in dispute because in March 2016, Luria separately sued Plaintiffs for breach of fiduciary duty, abuse, and unjust enrichment, and demanded the transfer of title. Luria also argued that he was not authorized to make a commitment to sell the Property on behalf of his wife. Luria reiterated his argument from the first summary adjudication motion that the parties had agreed to hold the Property for at least 10 years.

Additionally, Luria argued there was a triable issue of material fact that Plaintiffs should be denied equitable relief under the doctrine of unclean hands. According to Defendants, Hadar had breached fiduciary duties to Defendants by opening a limited liability company named GLSH Properties in March 2011 without Defendants’ awareness or consent. Luria claimed that Hadar had falsely stated in his summary adjudication declaration that the parties’ plan to open the limited liability company was never executed when, in fact, it was partially executed. Luria also claimed that since Hadar gave allegedly fabricated testimony to an insurance company in connection with a tenant’s separate lawsuit against Luria.

The trial court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for summary adjudication and ordered that the Property be partitioned by sale, finding Plaintiffs and Defendants each have a 50 percent undivided interest in the Property. In concluding there was no triable dispute as to the parties’ ownership interests, the court rejected Defendants’ attempt to manufacture a triable issue based on the allegations of the complaint in other cases.

In rejecting Defendants’ claim of waiver, the court found it was undisputed that there was no written agreement to hold the Property for 10 years and held that any oral agreement to do so was unenforceable under the statute of frauds. The court additionally found that any claimed oral agreement was modified by the January 2016 email in which Hadar memorialized Luria’s consent to the sale of the Property.

Finally, the trial court found there was no triable issue as to Defendants’ unclean hands defense, as the allegations of Plaintiffs’ misconduct were unrelated to the relief sought in the instant partition action. According to the trial court, the allegations of misconduct may have subjected Plaintiffs to liability for damages, but they could not serve as a basis for denying the equitable right of partition.

On second appeal, the California First District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial courts holdings. The Court of Appeal held that Luria had failed to demonstrate the existence of a triable dispute as to the parties’ ownership interests in the Property. The Court also concluded that Luria had failed to demonstrate a triable issue of material fact with respect to Plaintiffs’ supposed waiver of their right of partition. Lasty, Luria had failed to show that the Plaintiff’s misconduct had any effect on the equitable relations between the parties or whether an interlocutory judgment to partition the Property should issue.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order granting Plaintiffs’ second motion for summary adjudication and awarded Plaintiffs their costs on appeal.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As we’ve seen, a party’s decision to represent him or herself in court without an attorney often leads to negative consequences in partition actions. As there are many different ways to waive the right of partition, and you are considering it as an option, then you may benefit from good legal advice on the topic. If you find yourself contemplating a partition action, or faced with defending one, then please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C. for an initial consultation.

Learn more here.

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