What to Know About Property Partition Lawsuits in Sacramento

Real Estate litigation attorneys in Sacramento may be able to help you with something called a “partition lawsuit” when co-owners of real property can’t agree between themselves on how to divide up ownership interests.

What Is A Partition Lawsuit?

Let’s say that you and your sibling inherit a property from a parent. Or let’s say there are two or more business partners who jointly own a commercial building. Such co-owners are called “tenants-in-common.” If one of the common tenants decides to unwind or sell their interest, and if the other co-owner(s) cannot agree, either on a price or to sell at all, a partition lawsuit is how such disputes are handled.

For properties in Sacramento County, partition actions are always filed in Superior Court, and a real estate attorney will almost certainly be required. This is not the kind of case that a lay person should ever consider taking on themselves. The guiding law in these actions is California Civil Code, Civil Procedure – CCP § 872.010.

What If One Owner Is Damaging The Property?

Even before a partition lawsuit is filed, which is a process that can take a while, there are circumstances where one owner of a property may be justifiably worried that another owner will do damage to a property, possibly through neglect or mismanagement. In that case, you’ll need an attorney who can file a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court to seek a restraining order or an injunction. At the same time, a notice should be posted called a ‘lis pendens’ which is a public record of a pending lawsuit. Such a legal action will immediately block any transfer of title.

What are the Steps In a Partition Lawsuit?

A Partition Complaint, which is the first step in a lawsuit, will specify such things as the legal description of the property, the plaintiff’s claim(s) to the property, all parties who may have an interest in the property, and what kind of ‘relief’ or resolution is requested of the Court. The Superior Court will decide if a partition action is allowed, and if how the property may be divided. A trial may or may not be needed – it will depend on the facts of the case, and whether the parties do or do not accept the basic facts. Thereafter, a Judge will typically appoint a Partition Referee to divide up or sell the property. While the referee is appointed by a Judge, all the parties to the action are responsible for paying the referee’s hourly rate.

What Does a Partition Referee Do?

Depending on whether we’re talking about land, a commercial building, a house, or an apartment building, the partition referee usually has wide latitude to make decisions that he or she believes are equitable and efficient. The referee can order a public or private sale of the property, or may divide it up according to ownership percentages, again depending on what type of property is being contested. Ultimately, whatever the referee decides must be approved by the Court, so the decision isn’t unilateral.

Because the Partition Referee plays such an important role, the person chosen for the job must have extensive experience both in real estate as well as in all facets of building and construction. I have been called upon many times to serve as a Partition Referee, not only because I have been a broker and realtor for many years, but also because of my wide-ranging construction experiences, and my work as a Court-Appointed Receiver. That skill set, though hard to find, is the trifecta that is most useful to find in a Partition Referee!

If you want to learn more about Partition Actions and Partition Referees, please feel free to call me at (916) 215-2042.

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