What is a Partition Action?


            In California, if you own real property with someone else, you have a statutory right to sell it – this act of forcing someone to sell real property through the courts is a cause of action called Partition. Regardless of how you hold title, whether it is as joint tenants, tenants in common, community property, as a trustee of a trust, – if you are unable to agree to sell the property together, you can go to the court and petition for this to occur.

            This situation might arise if you purchased property with relatives or business partners, or even when multiple people own property together and one of them dies, and a new paryt has stepped in to take that roll. 

            Generally, if the parties are in this situation, an ownership agreement related to how the property was to be maintained, paid for, and how any losses or gains would be distributed has not been created. That leaves many areas ripe for discussion argument in the court: who has made payments on the mortgage, taxes, repairs, 

            In a partition lawsuit, the controlling document or evidence that the court will review is the deed. The deed will list the property owners, how they hold title, and sometimes will list what the relative percentage interests of ownership might be. In addition to these things, the amount the parties put into the property, whether it’s their contribution to the mortgage, down payment, repairs, property taxes, and/or whether a person was able to live in the property or make use of it, or whether they had a third party in the property are all considered.

            Once litigation has been initiated, there is a long process to get to trial. Prior to then, most courts heavily encourage the parties to go to some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Mediation, the process where the parties come together with a third party neutral to try and reach a voluntary agreement, is a very common method of resolving disputes related to partition lawsuits. Without the parties making some compromise, the court may need to appoint a receivor who will end up charging a hefty fee that comes out of the parties’ proceeds. Generally, in partition actions and elsewhere in life, reaching a resolution makes the most sense for everyone.