Ventura Partition Lawyers

The City of Ventura was originally founded on March 31, 1782, when Saint Junípero Serra established Mission San Buenaventura. However, the history of the humans on the land goes as far back as 12,000 years ago. According to Redfin, in April 2023, Ventura home prices were down 6.6% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $800K. On average, homes in Ventura sell after 28 days on the market compared to 21 days last year. There were 43 homes sold in April this year, down from 92 last year. As a bustling town, residents of Ventura often own homes with others, which can lead to disputes with co-owners. Generally, the best Ventura Partition Lawyers usually find partition action to be the best remedy for disputing co-owners in four broad categories:

  • Split owned real estate dispute;
  • Brother-Sister real estate dispute;
  • Investor-Investor real estate dispute; and
  • Significant other real estate dispute
What is a Partition Action in California?

Partitions are lawsuits that split up the property between multiple co-owners so that each can take their equity out of the home. The prototypical partition are between siblings, former romantic partners, or business partners. Both own parts of the property, but only one wants to end the relationship and take their money out. Partitions enable this to happen, usually ending with a court-ordered sale of the subject property.

Basically, any person who is an owner of real estate can bring a partition action in California. Code of Civil Procedure section 872.710, subdivision (a), states "A partition action may be commenced and maintained by any…owner of…such property." California Civil Code section 872.210 provides a property owner with the "absolute right to partition" absent a valid waiver. Thus, a partition action can be brought by anyone who no longer wants to own jointly owned real estate, other than spousal property.

Generally, a partition action cannot be stopped absent a valid waiver. The instances in which a court has found a valid waiver have generally 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 Ventura Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What are the Steps in a Partition Action?

First, a partition action is filed. A partition action can be filed if one co-owner of real property or a piece of real estate wishes to sell the property or piece of real estate in question but the other co-owners or co-tenants do not wish to sell their ownership rights.

Second, the court may appoint a court referee to oversee the sale of the property in question. The sales procedure includes that all parties agree to the terms and conditions of the sale in writing. If the parties can not agree, as partition actions are usually very contested issues, then the referee that the court appointed may recommend terms and conditions to the court. Then the court will hold a hearing to decide whether or not to accept those terms and conditions.

Third, in California, the property’s value will be appraised via a third party or another property appraisal with no ties to any of the parties. While this is not required in all states, it is recommended to make sure that all parties are on the same metaphorical page as to the potential sale proceeds of the property in question.

Fourth, the referee will conduct the sale in the method most agreeable to all of the party’s goals. This can be via a public auction or a private sale. Regardless of the specific method of partition by sale, the court will determine if the sale was “fair.” If it is decided that the property’s sale proceeds had a lack of proper notice, the sale amount is not within reasonable the value of the property, or if the proceeds were unfair- the court would rule that the property will be up for sale again.

Lastly, the court will order that the proceeds of the sale, minus any court litigated or approved offsets or costs, will be distributed equitably amongst all of the co-owners or people with interest in the property. A top Ventura Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Mediate a Partition Action?

A partition action can always be resolved informally at any time prior to the first day of trial, or entry of judgment. In fact, in numerous instances, just filing the partition itself leads the other party to seek a resolution between them. We always encourage the parties to talk throughout every phase of the process, as that can lead to the best outcomes for everyone.

From our perspective, every piece of litigation is just part of a larger “negotiation.” In any negotiation, the party who has the best leverage is usually able to achieve a more favorable outcome. The lawsuit provides the client with more leverage because they have more options available to them than without the prospect of a resolution from a judge. As such, all that a lawsuit does is provide one party with more leverage in the negotiation about how to resolve the dispute. For this reason, the best way to informally resolve a dispute is to combine discussions with active litigation, so that the matter can be quickly resolved without unnecessary expense. Throughout the process, our attorneys are in touch with our clients about their options and the prospects for informal resolution through mediation or negotiation. A knowledgeable Ventura Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What are Claims for “Contribution”?

Under the law, a property owner can make a claim for contribution for anything that they have expended for the common benefit of all the parties as it relates to their jointly-owned property. Code of Civil Procedure section 874.410 states that “the court may, in all cases, order allowance, accounting, contribution, or other compensatory adjustment among the parties according to the principles of equity.” For example, the credits can include expenditure in excess of the co-tenants fractional share for necessary repairs and improvements that enhance the value of the property. (Wallace v. Daley (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1028, 1035-1036.) Similarly, payments for interest, taxes, and insurance made by any co-tenant could be the subject of a reimbursement claim. (Hunter v. Schultz (1966) 240 Cal.App.2d 24.) An experienced Ventura Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: George v. Williams

When there are disputes over shared real property, an action for partition can offer legal recourse. A partition refers to a legal process where the court undertakes the task of segregating and terminating shared interests in a particular piece of real property. In an action for partition by sale, the trial court determines the plaintiff's right to partition (§ 872.710), the interests of the parties in the property (§ 872.610), and the manner of partition (§§ 872.810-872.840). The court then issues an interlocutory judgment. (§ 872.720.) The court appoints a referee to divide or sell the property. (§§ 873.010, subd. (a), 873.210, 873.510, 873.790.) Lastly, the court then orders the proceeds of sale disbursed (§ 873.810) and enters a judgment of partition (§ 874.210). George v. Williams 2022 WL 152195 provides an example of how a court will often reference copies of contracts and deeds to determine the interests in real property on appeal. George v. Williams also showcases the importance of timely responding to a complaint or risking a default judgment being entered in your opponent’s favor.

In George v. Williams, Petrie and John Williams (the Williamses) sought assistance from Elizabeth George in purchasing a single-family home in Ojai. In a written contract, Elizabeth George agreed to loan the Williamses $63,750 for a down payment with additional interest and bonus payment stipulations. After securing a loan from a commercial lender, Elizabeth George acquired the property in her name and transferred a 99 percent interest to herself as trustee of the Elizabeth L. George Revocable Trust on November 23, 1994. The remaining one percent interest was transferred to Petrie Williams as tenants in common with the expectation that Petrie Williams would eventually refinance the property and become the owner.

However, the Williamses failed to make some mortgage payments, did not repay the down payment, and failed to refinance the loan. In September 2019, Petrie Williams recorded a deed transferring her one percent interest to herself, John Williams, and Elizabeth George as tenants in common. Subsequently, in October 2019, Elizabeth George, both individually and as trustee, filed a complaint against the Williamses for partition, breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

The Williamses were served with the summons and complaint in November 2019. However, they did not file a response. As a result, on January 8, 2020, the court clerk entered a default judgment against the Williamses, and they were served with the entry of default by mail. On August 5, 2020, Elizabeth George served the Williamses with an application for entry of default judgment. The Williamses filed motions to set aside the default on August 12, 2020, claiming they did not receive the summons and complaint until March 15, 2020. They also stated that a case management hearing scheduled for March 27, 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19, and they did not receive notice of a new date.

On September 9, 2020, the trial court denied the motions to set aside the default, citing the time limits and the Williamses' failure to act diligently and seek relief within a reasonable time. On October 16, 2020, the court entered an interlocutory judgment, determining that Elizabeth George held a 99 percent interest as trustee, and John Williams, Petrie Williams, and Elizabeth George held the remaining one percent interest as tenants in common. The court ordered partition by sale, appointed a referee, and instructed the Williamses to vacate the property within 65 days. After payment of costs, expenses, and compensatory adjustments to Elizabeth George, 99 percent of the sale proceeds were ordered to be distributed to Elizabeth George as trustee, and one percent in equal shares to John Williams, Petrie Williams, and Elizabeth George.

The Williamses appealed contending that the trial court trial court: (1) violated their due process rights when it entered a default judgment against them, and (2) failed to properly establish the interest of each co-owner. The California Second District Court of Appeal ultimately agreed with the trial court and affirmed the default judgement against the Williamses.

An application for relief from default must be made within a reasonable time, not exceeding six months. (§ 473, subd. (b).) Since the Williamses' application was filed more than six months after the default was entered, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court correctly denied the motion to set aside the default. The Williamses stated in their reply brief that their delayed response was partially the result of a COVID-19 administrative order that closed the clerk's office from April 15, 2020 through May 12, 2020 and were deemed holidays for filing purposes. However, when the trial court rejected the Williamses motion to set aside the default, they relied on a later administrative order that stated the clerk's office reopened on June 10, 2020. As a result, the trial court concluded that the Williamses waited over two months after the reopening of the clerk's office to file their motions. Section 12a, subdivision (a) prohibits a party from extending a time limit based on an intervening holiday. As a result, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that the motions were not timely filed within the required six-month period provided in section 473.

The Williamses then contended they were denied their right to due process by the trial court's failure to hold a case management conference. The Court of Appeal rejected this contention because the Williamses cited no authority to establish that a case management conference is required after a default has been entered, or that failure to hold such a conference denies due process.

The Court of Appeal also disagreed with the Williams contention that the partition order was defective because the trial court failed to properly establish each co-owner's interest in the property. The court stated that on appeal, a defendant can challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the default judgment. In this case, the trial court properly considered Elizabeth George's declaration, supported by contract and deeds attached to it, which established the ownership interests of the parties. Since the default interlocutory judgment was supported by substantial evidence, the trial court did not abuse its discretion. The trial court thus properly ordered that 99 percent of the sale proceeds were to be distributed to Elizabeth George as trustee, and one percent in equal shares to John Williams, Petrie Williams, and Elizabeth George.

The Williamses lastly claimed they did not breach the contract or covenant of good faith because they made regular payments and the contract did not include a termination clause. The Court of Appeal deemed these arguments unavailing because the trial court had took no action regarding either claim.

Based on the evidence provided by Elizabeth George that indicated that the trial court accurately determined each parties interest in the property, the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s interlocutory judgment that ordered partition by sale of the property with the proceeds divided.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

Analyzing documented property interests in deeds or other written records are a standard method to determine accurate ownership interest in partition disputes. A court will often reference deeds to determine ownership that dictate how sales proceeds will be divided in a partition action. If you would like to begin a partition action or are served with a partition complaint, clarifying the accurate property interest of each party are important step in resolving a dispute. You may benefit from good legal advice on the topic. Please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C., for an initial consultation.

Learn more here.

Contact Us Today
4590 MacArthur Boulevard, Suite 500
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Client Reviews
“We were in need of a real estate attorney. Eli Underwood provided excellent legal advice and services. He explained everything well and followed through with all important issues that needed attention. We found him to be reliable, courteous, patient and extremely professional. We highly recommend Mr. Underwood without any reservations.” I.S.
"I own a real estate investment company that operates across multiple states (California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and more), whenever I run into an issue that needs legal attention, Eli is my first call. I've been working with him for years. He is an amazing attorney and I highly recommend him." Thank you for your help Sir!" T.W.
"Mr. Underwood is a fantastic Lawyer with extraordinary ethics. He responds quickly, which is rare these days, and he is very knowledgeable in his craft. It was a pleasure working with him and we will definitely use his services in the future if needed. Thank you for your help Sir!" M.O.
"Eli took our case and controlled every hurdle put before us. I one time commented to him that he must love his job because it seemed that he was always available. When talking about my case to anyone I always bring up where, I believe, the other parties Lawyer tried to take advantage of my wife and me. Eli stopped him in his tracks. On top of it being easy to work with Eli, it was a pleasure to have had him represent us. We were in good hands." E.T
"We were in need of an attorney with considerable knowledge of real estate law and the legal issues related to property ownership. Eli Underwood went above and beyond our expectations. In keeping us abreast of our suit, his communication skills were outstanding. This talent was especially demonstrated when dealing with the apposing counsel. We feel this gave us a tremendous advantage over the opposing party that resulted in us reaching a successful outcome. I would highly recommend Eli Underwood as we found him to be an exceptional attorney." P.B.
"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.