How Much Does a Partition Action Cost in California?
As partition attorneys in California, we are often asked about the cost of a partition action. Since attorneys are the largest cost, the real question is how much are the attorney’s fees for a partition lawsuit in California?
The definition of a partition action is a lawsuit to divide real estate fairly among its co-owners. Since these cases usually involve a single family home or other improved properties, the division is of the equity in the property, which means that the property is sold to a third-party or refinanced by one of the co-owners.
In California, the cost of a partition action and attorneys fees can vary depending on the complexity of the dispute. Attorney’s fees can range from $4,000 to $8,000 for the plaintiff or defendant. However, some attorneys, including those at Talkov Law in Riverside, are able to handle certain partition disputes on a contingency basis where there is equity in the property, meaning you do not pay attorney’s fees until you win, which is when the property is sold or refinanced.
This average range of costs for a partition, based on dozens of partition lawsuits handled by the attorneys at Talkov Law, include the drafting of a complaint, a cover letter to be served with the complaint explaining that attorney’s fees can be recovered in a partition for non-cooperation by a co-owner, simple negotiation with the co-owner usually relating to offsets allowed in a partition action, communication with a real estate broker who will list and sell the property, and drafting an agreement to sell the property with certain offsets. This would be a normal case for which the hourly rate multiplied by the hours involved would probably be around $4,000 to $8,000 from the beginning to the end of a partition lawsuit. Sometimes this only involves a threatened partition lawsuit whereby the attorney sends a draft complaint that causes cooperation by the co-owner.
However, supposing the co-owner does not cooperate, but also does not litigate. In such cases, the matter goes to a default because the co-owner does not respond when served with the summons and complaint. In those cases, the attorney would be required to prepare paperwork appointing a referee, who is usually a real estate broker, to list and sell the property. Even though the word “sell” is used, the buyer is often one of the co-owners, even if the property is sold by the court. The drafting of such interlocutory orders to appoint a referee and confirm the sale, in addition to the hearings on such matters, might add another $4,000 or so, bringing the range closer to $8,000 to $12,000 in total for the plaintiff.
However, there are times where a lawsuit is filed, but the defendant resists the partition efforts by raising affirmative defenses to partition actions. These complications would increase the cost of a partition of real property action beyond the estimated range. Examples of such complications increasing the cost of a partition action are follows:
- Drafting discovery to the co-owner(s) or third parties;
- Responding to discovery from the co-owner(s);
- Discovery disputes, including motions to compel discovery responses;
- Motions and disputes over the appointment of a referee;
- Non-cooperation with the referee and/or real estate broker appointed to list and sell the real property;
- Disputed liens on the property that appear on a preliminary title report, including judgments, mechanic’s liens, tax liens, etc.;
- Negotiating cash for keys for any occupants of the property;
- Disagreements about the list or sale price of the property;
- Disagreement, motions and trials relating to offsets claimed by one party against the interest of a co-owner;
- Disputes as to ownership, e.g., whether a particular party is only a legal owner on title, but holds no equitable ownership of the property;
- Related cases or legal issues, such as a trust and estate dispute or family law litigation, all of which will add complexity; and
- Difficulties in locating any defendants in the case, thereby requiring a potential application to serve by publication;
Note that this estimate is only related to the attorney’s fees. Court costs are usually fairly minimal. However, additional costs include the fees for a court-appointed referee, as well as normal costs of sale, such as a broker’s commission.
Keep in mind that the right to partition is absolute for all co-owners in California, so it is important to work with an experienced partition attorney to end a co-ownership relationship that has caused numerous problems. Our attorneys have litigated partition cases throughout the State of California, including Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. Call the experienced real estate attorneys at Talkov Law at (951) 888-3300 or contact us online for a free consultation about your case.