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When Co-Tenants Are Fighting A California Court Can Order That The Property Be Sold


In my last post, I described how my client and her brother came to own, as tenants in common (California Civil Code §686), the single family residence of their mother. My client wanted her mother’s home to be sold; her brother did not. Pursuant to my recommendation, my client authorized me to file a complaint for partition (California Code of Civil Procedure §872.230) in Superior Court of Los Angeles County Northeast District (which is where the residence was located).

Generally speaking, when real property is owned by two people as tenants in common, each person has an undivided and equal interest in the real property. The problem arises when the only improvement on the real property is a single family residence. You cannot, as a practical matter, divide up such an improvement to the real property. What can be done is that one co-tenant can buy the other out (if they can agree on a price) or a co-tenant can seek court intervention to have the real property sold to the highest bidder (this is called “partition by sale” in accordance with California Code of Civil Procedure §872.820).

In this case, I hired an appraiser to value the single family residence; I communicated that value to the other side and suggested that my client would be willing to pay one-half of that amount to acquire her brother’s interest in the property or alternatively, my client would accept that amount for her interest. The problem was that my client’s brother did not agree with the appraisal.

In my next post, I will describe how this case went forward.

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