Santa Cruz Partition Lawyers

Santa Cruz Partition Lawyers

Santa Cruz, located in Northern California, is famous for its high-stroke surf culture and laid-back nature. It is the birthplace of mainland surfing. Using boards from redwood planks, three Hawaiian princes showed locals how to surf in 1885. The company credited with inventing the modern wetsuit, O’Neil Wetsuits, holds its headquarters in Santa Cruz, where they have been for the past 70 years. Residents of Santa Cruz owning joint property often disagree with their joint owners on what to do with their shared property. There are at least four situations where a Santa Cruz Partition Lawyer should be used:

  • Boyfriend-Girlfriend common ownership of real estate;
  • Sibling-Sibling common ownership of real estate;
  • Investor-Investor common ownership of real estate;
  • Parent-Child common ownership of real estate;
What Is a Partition Action in California?

A partition action is an action brought by a co-owner of a piece of real property against another co-owner, seeking to divide the property according to the respective interests of the co-owners. In order to establish a right to a partition, a party must show that they have some ownership interest in the subject property. Under Code of Civil Procedure section 872.210, any owner of an estate of inheritance, an estate for life, or an estate for years in real property where such property or estate is owned by several persons concurrently or in successive estates may bring a partition action. (CCP § 872.210.) Therefore, a co-tenant has an absolute right to partition. (Formosa Corp. v. Rogers (1951), 108 Cal.App.2d 397.) At the Underwood Law Firm, our attorneys are more than familiar with partition actions and the step-by-step process of pursuing a partition.

Generally, a partition action cannot be stopped absent a valid waiver. Virtually universally, the instances in which a court has found a valid waiver have involved some sort of written contract or adverse possession of property. As such, many parties try to stop a partition action through mediation, or a buy-out agreement. In most instances, the parties to a partition action can benefit from creative lawyering by those who are familiar with the different options for resolving real estate disputes. The best Santa Cruz Partition Lawyers will be able to share information on this process with you.

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

Under the Partition of Real Property Act, the court instead appoints an appraiser to do the heavy lifting. The new statute states that the court “shall determine the fair market value of the property by ordering an appraisal.” (CCP § 874.316.) The court doesn’t have to be the one to order the appraisal, but this is only if all the co-owners agree to a different method of valuation.

If, however, an appraisal occurs, it shall be conducted by a disinterested third-party real estate appraiser licensed to determine the fair market value of properties. After the appraisal is conducted, parties may file objections to the value and can even offer additional evidence of value to the court.

After the valuation is complete, parties will be introduced to the key feature of the new statute: the buy-out option. If a co-owner requests a partition by sale, then the court will notify the other co-owners that they may buy all the interests of the cotenant that requested the partition. (CCP § 874.317.)

This is, essentially, a right of first refusal. The co-owners who don’t want the property sold now have the option to simply buy out the requesting party. Additionally, the buy-out price will be based on the property’s valuation, determined earlier in the litigation. And if one or more parties exercise the buy-out, then the court will reapportion ownership percentages based on the price paid. A top Santa Cruz Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Recover Your Attorneys’ Fees in a Partition Action?

Code of Civil Procedure, section 874.010 states that “[t]he costs of partition include: (a) [r]easonable attorney’s fees incurred or paid by a party for the common benefit.”

Interestingly, the costs of partition can also include reasonable expenses necessarily incurred by a party for the common benefit in prosecuting or defending other actions or proceedings for the protection, confirmation, or perfection of title, setting the boundaries, or making a survey of the property. (CCP § 874.020.)

That attorney’s fees are considered “costs” associated with a partition action is important because Section 874.040 goes on to state the “court shall apportion the costs of partition among the parties in proportion to their interests or make such other apportionment as may be equitable.” A knowledgeable Santa Cruz 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 Santa Cruz Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Enayati v. Enayati

A partition action can be contentious. This is especially true for family members who may have special attachments to the properties at issue and who also have extra motivation to be adversarial. Sometimes, other claims may be brought up in partition lawsuits that the parties will have to grapple with. Some claims may even be added later in litigation.

Occasionally, a completely new party could be added to the lawsuit. This could completely change litigation strategy and even open up new legal arguments that weren’t available before. It is important for parties to constantly evolve and adapt as litigation progresses, so that they aren’t left behind in the dust.

The two properties at issue in Enayati v. Enayati , Cal.App.Unpub., WL 2839928 (2010) were a Beverly Hills property and a property on Alcott Street in Los Angeles. (Id. , at 1.) In 2005, Alaedinn Enayati sued several other parties in his family, seeking partition and asserting numerous other claims for the Alcott property. (Id.) Alaeddin also sued for partition against the same parties for the Beverly Hills property. (Id.) In addition to partition, Alaeddin sued for cancellation of a deed, quiet title, and declaratory relief for the Bevery Hills property. (Id.)

The Defendants filed a cross-complaint against Alaeddin, arguing that they each owned an interest in the Beverly Hills property and requesting a cancellation of a deed that transferred an interest of the Beverly Hills property from one of the party’s wives to a trust controlled by Alaeddin. (Id.) The trust was called the Sorraya Faridian Living Trust. (Id .) The Defendants alleged Alaeddin improperly caused the wife to transfer her interest to this trust, and Alaeddin later gained personal control of the interest after the wife’s death. (Id.) Hessamedin Enayati joined in this cross-complaint. (Id.)

In November 2006, the Defendants filed a petition to sever the Beverly Hills property claims from the Alcott property claims. (Id.) The Defendants argued that the claims about the Beverly Hills property depended on the validity of the Sorraya Faridian Living Trust, and if the trust was invalid then the Beverly Hills claims would be entirely moot. (Id.) The trial court decided to suspend the Beverly Hills claims. (Id.)

In 2007, after trial over the Alcott property claims, the trial court entered an interlocutory order for partition of the Alcott property by sale. (Id. , at 2.) The trial court also concluded that Alaeddin prevailed on all his claims except for one that he dismissed. (Id.) In 2007, Hessamedin was the successful bidder at the sale for the Alcott property. (Id.) The trial court also found that Alaeddin was the prevailing part and denied him awards for costs and attorneys’ fees. (Id.) Alaeddin appealed this denial, but the appeal was ultimately unsuccessful. (Id.)

In 2008, the probate court ruled in Alaeddin’s favor on the trust action of the Beverly Hills property claims. (Id.) Alaeddin also added Hessamedin as a defendant to this suit in an amended complaint. (Id.) After trial on the Beverly Hills claims, the trial court ordered partition by sale of the Beverly Hills property. (Id. , at 3.) The Defendants, which now included Hessamedin, appealed the partition order. (Id.) The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s judgment. (Id.)

Enayati is indicative of how messy a partitions action can be. Even though a dispute may start off with just a partition, it can quickly escalate. Especially when two sides are particularly adversarial, it may be difficult to realize just how many claims can come crawling out of one lawsuit.

The Defendants first argued that the trial court should not have allowed Alaeddin to file his amended complaint adding Hessamedin as a defendant. (Id.) The trial court had permitted Alaeddin to add Hessamedin as a defendant because Hessamedin was deemed necessary to the claims. (Id.) The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court’s reasoning and found no error. (Id.)

The Defendants then contended that the trial court erred in granting Alaeddin’s motion in limine that prevented the Defendants from showing they had paid an excessive amount of expenses for the Beverly Hills property. (Id ., at 6.) The Defendants argued that because of this ruling, they could not potentially recover their contributions to these expenses. (Id.)

In partition actions, a party that wishes to recover payments or expenditures of the property must plead for incidental relief. (Id.) In the parties’ pleadings however, there was no request for incidental relief or allegations involving expenditures of the Beverly Hills property. (Id ., at 7.) The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly excluded evidence related to the Defendants’ expenses. (Id.)

Finally, the Defendants argued that the trial court erred in finding Alaeddin to be the prevailing party and not awarding him fees and costs for the Beverly Hills claims. (Id ., at 8.) The Defendants contended that in partition actions, attorney fees are usually apportioned among the parties according to their ownership interest in the property. (Id.) The Court of Appeal rejected the Defendants’ argument, pointing out that Alaeddin brought other claims besides partition. (Id.)

Enayati teaches how partition actions can contain many other actions within itself, not just a claim for partition. In Enayati , there was a whole laundry list of claims that the parties brought against each other. This can often make parties lose focus on which aspects of the litigation they must focus on.

Enayati shows that parties must be prepared to fight all of the claims in a lawsuit, not just the partition claim. Although a lawsuit may start off as a partition suit, it can quickly snowball into a conglomerate of hefty claims.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen in Enayati , partition law is full of surprises that can catch an unwary party off guard. Other claims can pile up after the initial lawsuit is filed, and other parties could be added to the action. It is important for parties to understand how events that happen during the lawsuit 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.

Learn more here.

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"In our need for legal services we found Eli to be well informed and on top of our case and our needs. Our's was not an ordinary case as it was a case with many facets. It was a very convoluted case. There were multiple owners involved in a property dispute where one of the owners sued the rest of the owners with a Partition Suit. Needless to say Eli was instrumental in helping us resolve our differences and gained us a profitable sale all with good end results for all. If you hire Eli Underwood you will not be disappointed!" M.A.