Tracy Partition Lawyers

Tracy is a charming city in San Joaquin County, California. It is a railroad town that came from the mid-19th century construction, mainly by Chinese laborers, of Central Pacific Railroad rail lines running from Sacramento through Stockton to the San Francisco Bay Area, beginning 1868 and ending September 1878 with the opening of a new branch and junction. A number of small communities sprang up along these lines at designated station sites, including one at the junction named for railroad director J. J. Tracy. Tracy is best known for railroads, agriculture, and wineries. According to Redfin, In July 2023, Tracy home prices were down 4.7% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $705K. On average, homes in Tracy sell after 9 days on the market compared to 22 days last year. There were 67 homes sold in July this year, down from 68 last year. When joint ownership issues become a problem, often its citizens will reach out to a Tracy Partition Lawyer. Frequently, there are at least four common types of partitions actions for which a Tracy Partition Attorney can provide sound counsel:

  • Investor-Investor shared ownership of property;
  • Boyfriend-Girlfriend share ownership of property;
  • Brother-Sister shared ownership of property; and
  • Parent-child shared ownership of property
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 Tracy 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 Tracy 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 Tracy Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What Are Claims for “Contribution”?

Code of Civil Procedure section 874.140 states that the “court may, in all cases, order allowance, accounting, contribution, or other compensatory adjustments among the parties according to the principles of equity.” 

The court in Hunter v. Schultz (1966) 240 Cal.App.2d 24 stated that the payments for interest, taxes, and insurance made by any co-tenant could be subject to reimbursement. These claims for reimbursement are commonly known as “offsets” in a partition action. 

Further, the court under Milian v. De Leon (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 1185, announced that a co-tenant who expends money for the preservation of the property, or with the [acceptance] of their co-tenant(s), is entitled to reimbursement for those expenditures before the division of the proceeds among the property owners. 

That is, the general rule is that compensatory adjustments are appropriate for improvements that enhance the value of the property for all owners’ benefit. (see Wallace v. Daley (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1028, 1035-1036.) An experienced Tracy Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Wash v. Wash (2023): Handling Various Matters in Litigation

Litigation is often a lengthy process that can take many years to complete. Additionally, the more complex the issues in the lawsuit are, the more likely it is that the lawsuit will take excessive amounts of time.

In partition lawsuits, matters can become incredibly complicated with large amounts of land and intricate geography. Courts must take many factors into account when determining the partition judgment, and parties must be prepared to argue on any issue that may arise.

What Led This Case to the Court of Appeal?

The property at issue in Wash v. Wash (2023) Cal.App.Unpub. WL 4730636 was an over 100-acre piece of land that was mostly used for farming. (Id., at 1.) In 2005, Robert Wash died and left the 100 acres to his two sons, John and Robert Wash. (Id., at 2.) The 100 acres included John and Robert’s childhood home and the Wash family farm. (Id.)

Thomas and his wife, Maria Banda Banales, formed a partnership with John called the Wash and Wash Partnership. (Id.) The Partnership mainly focused on acquiring and managing farm property. (Id.) The partnership agreement asserted that the initial contributions were 40 acres from two parcels. (Id.)

On the property, Thomas and Maria managed a tree and nursery business. (Id.) There were about 77 acres of citrus orchards on the 100 acres. (Id.) Maria’s residence and John’s residence were both on the 100 acres. (Id.)

In March 2009, Thomas and Maria sued John, seeking to dissolve the partnership, an accounting, and partition of the 40 acres into two 20-acre parcels. (Id.) John cross-complained for dissolution of the partnership, an accounting, damages for waste, and partition of the 100 acres. (Id.) John owned a one-half interest in the 100 acres while Thomas and Maria owned the other one-half interest. (Id.)

The parties held a mediation in August 2010, and the parties signed a settlement agreement. (Id.) In November 2011, Thomas died. (Id.)

In January 2015, Maria moved to enforce the settlement agreement. (Id.) John opposed the motion, arguing that the settlement agreement was unenforceable. (Id.) The trial court eventually granted Maria’s motion to enforce the settlement, ruling that the agreement was valid and enforceable. (Id., at 3.)

In February 2015, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Maria and ordered enforcement of the settlement agreement. (Id.) The trial court also awarded Maria $2,460 in attorney fees. (Id.) John appealed, and the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s judgment. (Id.) Unfortunately, the parties could not comply with the trial court’s judgment and continued to fight over the property. (Id.)

In March 2019, John motioned to enforce the settlement agreement. (Id.) In his motion, John requested that the court order Maria to cooperate with a lot line adjustment that would give them each a 28.5-acre parcel from the 100 acres and sell off the remaining acres. (Id.)

In response, Maria filed her own motion, claiming that she complied with all of her obligations and John had done nothing to comply with his own obligations. (Id., at 5.) Maria argued that the 100 acres should be split into two 25-acre parcels and one 50-acre parcel, that she intended to buy John’s half interest in the 50-acre parcel, and the purchase price should be $13,500. (Id.)

Maria did not directly address how John’s 28.5-acre parcel proposal allegedly failed to comply with the trial court’s order. (Id.) John filed more papers supporting his position, and he argued that Maria did not have the right to buy his interest because she did not comply with a term in their settlement agreement. (Id.)

In April 2019, the trial court issued a tentative ruling that denied Maria’s motion for the 25/25/50 partition, granted John’s motion for the 28.5/28.5/42.38 partition, and appointed a receiver to carry out the terms of the judgment. (Id.) At a hearing for the tentative, Maria’s counsel argued that John’s split would go through buildings and the middle of a driveway. (Id.) John’s counsel objected, stating that those assertions should have been put in a declaration so John could respond. (Id.) For the receiver, the trial court ordered the parties to meet and confer to agree on a receiver. (Id., at 6.)

In June 2019, the court appointed Jim Phillips as a receiver. (Id.) The trial court ordered the receiver to take an oath to execute his duties faithfully, but there was no entry in the records that Phillips took an oath. (Id.)

In September 2019, Phillips filed his receiver report. (Id.) The trial court ordered the parties’ counsels to meet and confer about any issues they had regarding the report. (Id.)

In December 2019, the trial court ordered the 100 acres to be divided into two 25-acre parcels and one 50.8-acre parcel. (Id.) John would receive a 25-acre parcel, while Maria would receive a 25-acre parcel and the 50.8-acre parcel. (Id.) John appealed the trial court’s judgment. (Id., at 7.) The Court of Appeal reversed in part and upheld in part. (Id., at 2.)

Wash’s Holding: Dealing With Multiple Issues in Partitions

On appeal, John argued that argued that the trial court erred in allowing the receiver to proceed without taking an oath. (Id., at 7.) The trial court had ordered the receiver to take an oath pursuant to California law. (Id.) Maria argued that during the time between the receiver was appointed and when he filed his report, John did not object to the validity of the receiver’s appointment. (Id.) Neither party cited any legal authorities that waiver of the receiver’s oath requirement was either allowed or prohibited. (Id., at 8.)

The Court of Appeal found that, since the lack of the receiver’s oath could easily be corrected if the issue was raised at trial, John forfeited this argument by failing to raise it before the trial court. (Id.) John had no evidence that he raised the issue of the receiver’s oath on time. (Id.)

Next, John argued that the trial court erred in splitting the 100 acres into two 25-acre parcels and one 50.8 acre parcel. (Id., at 11.) For determining the split, the trial court determined that John was to be given approximately 20 acres starting at the northern driveway and going down to the canal. (Id.)

In the Court of Appeal’s first opinion on the case, the court wrote that the trial court’s determination would result in a parcel of about 28.5 acres. (Id.) John argued that this was unenforceable because it conflicted with the trial court’s estimate of 20 acres. (Id.) The Court of Appeal dismissed his argument, holding that the trial court’s language of “approximately 20 acres” was flexible enough to include 28.5 acres. (Id., at 13.)

John then argued that the trial court should have adopted the Court of Appeal’s previous opinion of the 28.5-acre parcel split. (Id.) The Court of Appeal ruled that their previous opinion on the 28.5-acre parcel split did not establish a rule of law that the trial court was required to follow. (Id.)

The parties disagreed over the trial court’s method in deciding the boundary of the parcels. (Id.) In the judgment, the trial court wrote that the boundary would start at “the North side of the existing driveway”. (Id.)

John contended that the boundary line should have run across the driveway’s edge. (Id.) Maria argued that the boundary line should start at the most northern part of the driveway. (Id.) The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court’s phrasing was ambiguous and agreed with Maria’s interpretation of the boundary line. (Id.) The Court of Appeal also found that substantial evidence supported this interpretation of the boundary line. (Id.)

Next, John argued that the parties agreed to an easement for the driveway on the property. (Id.) John claimed the trial court’s partition order contradicted its judgment because the partition order did not mention the easement. (Id., at 15.) The Court of Appeal agreed with John, concluding that the trial court could not enter judgment enforcing the settlement agreement with different terms from that settlement agreement. (Id.) The Court of Appeal reversed this part of the trial court’s judgment. (Id.)

John next argued that the trial court erred in giving Maria the option to buy the third parcel because there was no third-party buyer for the parcel within 120 days. (Id., at 16.) Maria argued that her right to buy the parcel was not dependent on a third-party offer. (Id.) The trial court did not include conditions with Maria’s right to purchase in its judgment. (Id.) Based on the language in the trial court’s judgment, the Court of Appeal ruled that Maria had the right to purchase the parcel. (Id.)

John then argued that the trial court erred in valuing his one-half interest in the remaining parcel that Maria purchased at $13,500 per acre. (Id., at 18.) John further argued that an appraisal was required to establish the price. (Id.) The Court of Appeal held that substantial evidence supported this price, including the probate referee’s appraisal report. (Id.) The Court of Appeal also concluded that the price was reasonable. (Id., at 19.)

Next, John argued that the trial court’s awards to Maria for costs involving maintenance of the 100 acres was improper. (Id.) John contended that Maria did not raise the issue of an award with the trial court and the judgment did not state that Maria was entitled to these awards. (Id.) The Court of Appeal agreed with John and vacated Maria’s award. (Id.)

Finally, John argued that the trial court erred in determining that Maria was the prevailing party in the proceedings and was entitled to recover attorney fees and legal expenses. (Id.) Based on California case law, the Court of Appeal held the trial court erred and reversed its determination on this issue. (Id.)

Wash demonstrates the many complicated issues that can arise from partition lawsuits, especially when large amounts of land with complex geography are involved. Litigation is a long process, and new issues can emerge without warning over time. The parties must always be ready to address anything that comes their way.

How Underwood Law Firm Can Help You

As seen in Wash, partition actions can become wildly complex and involve numerous different legal issues. It is the parties’ responsibility to be prepared no matter the situation. That way, they can make the best arguments for their case under any circumstances.

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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