Levels of Assertiveness in Ending Co-ownership Disputes

Co-owners are often unsure how assertive they need to be to force the sale or buyout of their jointly owned property. Usually, the lack of cooperation of the other co-owners and the monetary amount involved will dictate how assertive a co-owner will need to be to end the co-ownership dispute.

As California’s premier law firm specializing in partition actions, Talkov Law offers generally advises increasing levels of assertiveness to promptly and efficiently end the co-ownership.

1. Talk Directly to the Co-owner

The first step is to have a direct conversation with a co-owner. Open communication enables co-owners to voice their concerns and negotiate an end to the co-ownership. However, if open communication fails to yield the desired solution, considering a more assertive approach may reveal options previously unexplored by your co-owner. Chances are, if a mere conversation worked, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post.

2. Write a Letter to the Co-owner

Adopting a more assertive approach to communication involves articulating your dispute through written correspondence. Drafting a letter that warns of a partition action in a formal tone serves to signal to your co-owner the seriousness of the dispute. This written communication can clarify your intent to either request the sale of jointly owned property or offer a buyout from the co-owner.

3. Attorney Letter Directly to the Opposing Co-Owner

Having an attorney, particularly a real estate attorney specializing in partition actions, send a letter directly to the opposing co-owner unequivocally demonstrates to a co-owner that the dispute is getting serious if unresolved. The letter by the real estate attorney typically outlines the client’s stance, demands, and the legal ramifications of failing to address the issues. Generally, the letter will indicate that the dispute could lead to litigation if the issues are not amicably resolved. In our experience, these lawyer letters are usually more trouble than they’re worth, often delaying the outcome of the issue.

4. Draft Partition Complaint with Cover Letter to Co-owner and Propose Settlement Offer

For co-owners who are not ready to file a partition action, but wish to show their co-owner that they are serious, an attorney can send a demand letter with an attached draft partition complaint. This is intended to show that litigation is indeed imminent. The cover letter will explicitly state that this is a co-owner’s final attempt to resolve the dispute amicably. The inclusion of a copy of the partition complaint that is prepared for filing should signal to the co-owner that this represents the last chance to settle the dispute privately.

It is important for co-owners to be willing to file the promised partition action if the matter is not resolved by the date specified in the cover letter to avoid endless negotiations or delays following the transmission of such a draft partition complaint.

An attorney may accompany the complaint and cover letter with a proposed settlement agreement. Proposing a settlement agreement alongside the transmission of a draft partition complaint is a strategic maneuver designed to maximize leverage and encourage meaningful dialogue between co-owners. This approach conveys that the co-owner is prepared to pursue legal action if necessary, while still leaving room for negotiation. Knowing that legal action is looming can motivate co-owners to explore mutually beneficial solutions and reach a compromise that avoids the need for litigation.

5. File a Partition Complaint with a Cover Letter

Filing a partition complaint in court is the standard tool that essentially guarantees an end to co-ownership disputes. Usually, it is best to include a letter to the co-owner when serving the filed partition complaint and summons. This cover letter can address the concept of a co-owner buyout or sale of the property to a third party on the open market. The letter can also inform the co-owner of the legal ramifications of failing to cooperate with an orderly resolution of the co-ownership, including the potential recovery of partition attorney’s fees. Upon filing the complaint, the opposing co-owner is required to either respond through a legal filing or settle the dispute directly with you. Regardless of how the co-owner responds to the complaint, a partition action allows the court to end the co-ownership dispute by appointing a partition referee to sell or divide the property regardless of whether the other co-owner consents. Most partitions are over in a matter of months with the cost of a partition usually amounting to only a modest sum.

6. File a Partition Action (Without a Cover Letter)

Sometimes, a partition action without a cover letter is the best approach, particularly where there are strong reasons to believe the case cannot be settled. Perhaps the parties have already exchanged communication showing that a judicial resolution will be needed.

Pursuing a partition action is the standard approach when resolving co-ownership disputes. In California, “each cotenant has an ‘absolute’ right to partition the common property.”[1]Right of partition—In general, 4 Cal. Real Est. (4th ed.) §11:14. A partition action requests the court to officially order the division or sale of the jointly owned property. It signifies the exhaustion of all negotiation attempts, with co-owners unable to reach a mutually agreeable resolution, thereby entrusting the decision to the court.

In a partition action where the court orders a sale of the property, there are two phases:

  1. Forcing the sale of the property in a partition by sale.
  2. Dividing the proceeds of sale. The court can also award attorney’s fees, usually to the party who filed the partition.

It’s common to encounter difficulties when one of the co-owners opposes selling the property. The partition attorneys at Talkov Law specialize in assisting individuals involved in co-ownership disputes over real estate in California.

7. Taking Expedited Measures in a Partition Action

On certain occasions, time is of the essence such that assertive measures must be taken within the partition action. For example, in a commercial partition action, the property might have a rental value of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. If the co-owners can’t agree on leasing the co-owned property, the vacant status of the property may cause the parties to lose out on tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars while the co-ownership dispute drags on.

Hiring a skilled partition attorney can allow for the usual time of a partition action to be shortened. For example, process servers can conduct stakeouts to ensure that the summons and complaint are served promptly. In other situations, it may be that a receiver or partition referee is appointed using special authority under Code of Civil Procedure § 872.120 and 872.130. A receiver or partition referee might be appropriate to cure an urgent situation at the property.

Alternatively, it may simply be that the plaintiff wants an interlocutory judgment of partition to be entered as promptly as possible. This can include serving prompt discovery or other techniques to allow for the expedited appointment of a partition referee to sell or divide the property.

Hiring an experienced partition attorney will ensure that these techniques can be utilized in partition cases where the cost is justified.

Talkov Law’s Partition Attorneys Can Help

Every client’s needs differ based on the level of assertiveness that may be necessary to end the co-ownership dispute. With seven full-time partition lawyers, Talkov Law is the #1 partition law firm in California and has handled over 300 partition actions throughout California. If you are seeking tailored advice and representation, contact Talkov Law, California’s premier partition action law firm, for a free consultation, call (844) 4-TALKOV (825568) or reach out online today.


1 Right of partition—In general, 4 Cal. Real Est. (4th ed.) §11:14.
About Scott Talkov

Scott Talkov is a partition lawyer in California. He founded Talkov Law Corp. after more than one decade of experience at a California real estate litigation firm, where he served as one of the firm's partners. He has been featured on ABC 7, CNN, KCBS, and KCAL-9, and in the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Press-Enterprise, and in Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine. Scott has been named a Super Lawyers Rising Star for 9 consecutive years. He can be reached about new matters at info@talkovlaw.com or (844) 4-TALKOV (825568). He can also be contacted directly at scott@talkovlaw.com.

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