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What Is a Partition Action in California?

Partition actions involve court-ordered divisions of property. It is usually started when co-owners cannot come to an agreement regarding the property. The subject property is typically sold in a partition action with the proceeds equitably distributed.

Who Can File a Partition Action in California?

Partition actions, also known as petitions for partition, require a disagreement between at least two co-owners. Typically, the disagreement is whether the property can be sold or not. As per California law, any co-owner can file a partition action.

These are the common types of parties to partition actions:

  • Romantic partners: Romantically involved co-owners may want to bring an action if they are no longer together and cannot agree on what to do with the co-owned property. In essence, the action, in this case, is the non-married version of the division of property in a divorce.
  • Family: Co-owners can be family members that either purchased the property together or inherited it through estate planning. Co-owners that don’t live on the property and receive no benefits usually seek to force a partition action.
  • Friends: Platonic friends can purchase property together as well. Reliable friends can prove to be instrumental in securing loans and contributing towards mortgage payments for a property that could not have been acquired on your own. In relation to this, there may be a forced sale of the property if one friend wants to sell their share while the others do not.
  • Post-divorced couples: Ex-spouses can use a partition action to solve their co-ownership problems. If the divorce is not finalized, any property owned by the spouses is considered community property, which falls under the purview of family law.

The one basic requirement for partition action is that the property should be co-owned. This is regardless of how the title is held.

Proving Co-Ownership Through Deeds vs. Quiet Title

The only evidence you need to start a partition action is to show that you are the co-owner of the property. A deed recorded in the county recorder is the most acceptable form of evidence of co-ownership. Under California Evidence Code Section 662, this evidence is presumed to be the strongest since most deeds reflect the true owner of a property.

In rare cases, the person referred to as the grantee in the deed or the holder of legal title may not reflect true ownership. For instance, the deed may say that “Max Doe and Jack Doe hereby transfer to Christina Doe.” Moreover, Max and Jack merely wanted Christina to hold the title till they returned from the Pacific Crest Trail.

If Christina refuses to transfer the title back to them, Max and Jack will need to file an action for quiet title. Max and Jack also have the opportunity to end their co-ownership by litigating the quiet title action under California Code of Civil Procedure 872.610.

Right to Partition is Not Affected by Irrelevant Facts

A partition action can be filed by co-owners regardless of the variation in which they hold the title. In addition, irrelevant facts don’t change the right to partition.

  • Manner of co-ownership since joint tenants and tenants in common can both file a partition action.
  • Percentage of ownership doesn’t impact the right to file a partition action. A co-owner with just 1% property can also file a partition.
  • Type of property or its purpose doesn’t have an impact on the partition action. It doesn’t matter whether the property is a farm residence or a commercial building.
  • Partition action requires a co-owner in any form. It can be a trust, suspended corporation, individual, or others.
  • Occupation of the property doesn’t matter. You can file a partition action whether the property is rented out or the co-owner has occupied it themselves.

The most important factor is that courts won’t weigh whether a partition action is “fair” or not. Under California law, the right to partition is absolute and cannot be denied owing to any supposed difficulty.

Partition Action Can Solve Co-ownership Issues

Partition actions are favored by the law. The original purpose of these actions was to prevent co-tenants from dissension or inconvenience arising from sharing land. Another reason why partition actions are favored is to facilitate the transmission of title and avoid unreasonable restraints on the enjoyment and use of a property.

The courts realize that in the open market, few people will want to purchase a share of the property. They may demand a minority discount from the co-owners.

Get Strong Legal Representation from Our Seasoned Northern California Real Estate Attorneys

The skilled real estate attorneys at Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP have the necessary knowledge, experience, and resources to help you file a partition action and end a co-ownership relationship without compromising your interests. Our attorneys will help you unlock equity in your property and put an end to co-ownership disputes.

To schedule a consultation, call us at (415) 399-2900 or fill out this online contact form.