Letter Warning of Partition Action [Free Template Form Example]

Can a Letter Solve My Co-Ownership Dispute?

With over 100 partition actions currently pending throughout California, Talkov Law’s dedicated partition attorneys have worked with hundreds of co-owners. While some are amenable to a sale or buyout, others are downright unreasonable, though most fall somewhere in between these two extremes. A partition action is usually a last resort once a co-owner has attempted to reason with a co-owner who is unwilling to part with the property.

However, in our experience, filing a complaint for partition of real property is the best way to show your uncooperative co-owner that you are serious about selling the property. Unlike a letter demanding sale of a property, a partition complaint filed with the court cannot simply be thrown away and forgotten about. When that letter is thrown in the trash, there are no consequences to the unreasonable co-owner who refuses to sell the property or buyout the interest of their co-owner.

Should I Write a Letter to my Co-Owner to Demand a Buyout or Sale of the Property?

Many people feel that filing a partition is too harsh and they would rather write a strongly worded letter to their uncooperative co-owner urging the sale of the property to a third party or simply a buyout of their interest. Co-owners who have very positive relationships or have recently spoken about selling the property may find that sending a letter to their co-owner is effective. However, in our attorneys’ experience, issuing a letter to an uncooperative co-owner is unlikely to be an effective remedy if the co-owner has shown certain signs of belligerence as described below. In many cases, filing a partition will be the most effective and fastest way to force the sale of jointly owned property.

Factors to Take Into Account as to Whether a Letter to Your Co-Owner Will be Effective, Rather than a Waste of Time and Further Headache

There are many factors to take into account when deciding whether to write your co-owner a letter or to contact a partition attorney who can file a complaint for partition. Below are some of the most common factors we see that affect the course of action:

  • The benefits derived by your co-owner ignoring the letter
    • If your co-owner thinks you will never file a partition action, a letter is unlikely to be effective. Sometimes, your co-owner knows that their best strategy is just to delay the proceedings, perhaps because they will not receive any money from the partition or because they will never live in such a nice house.
    • For example, if you have requested a buyout in the past, but did nothing when you co-owner refused to act, the letter is unlikely to change the situation. Rather, the co-owner may call your bluff by ignoring the letter.
  • Your co-owner’s financial situation
    • If your co-owner is struggling to make ends meet, sending a letter asking them to buy you out will likely be a waste of time since they cannot afford this. Many times, they simply can’t afford a refinance of the property to buy you out.
    • Alternatively, filing a partition will allow you and your co-owner(s) to collect your equitable portion of the proceeds of sale of the home
  • Your relationship with your co-owner
    • Is your relationship to your co-owner amicable or can you not even be in the same room together?
    • Having a healthy relationship to your co-owner can advance settlement talks much easier than a soured, toxic, or overall negative relationship.
  • The length of time this person has been your co-owner
    • Do you have a decades long volatile relationship with this person? If so, a letter is unlikely to change a belligerent co-owner’s mind.
  • Your co-owner initiated the buyout conversation
    • This can signal that your co-owner is ready to buy out your interests without having to engage in costly litigation.
  • How quickly you want or need the property sold
    • If you need the home sold soon (e.g. for medical bills, a foreclosure is pending or otherwise), sending a letter to your co-owner may only delay the process
    • Your co-owner may also use your urgency to sell the house to their advantage to try to stall the sale
    • Your co-owner may then use that delay tactic to negotiate a lower buyout price as they watch you become more desperate to sell
  • Your co-owner makes excuses and/or is wishy washy
    • We’ve heard this story a million times: I’m getting money next month, I’m expecting a huge settlement soon, I promise I’ll refinance, my cousin is helping me get the money next week, I’m getting a big bonus at work… the list goes on and on
    • The truth is that these excuses will continue indefinitely as long as your co-owner feels there are no repercussions
  • What will you do if your co-owner ignores your letter?
    • If your co-owner simply ignores your letter, this can create an awkward situation.
    • You may be forced to sue them after attempting to negotiate, creating even more headaches and uncomfortable situations

Caution: Demand Letters are Often Ineffective, Often Causing Further Headaches and Delays

Many co-owners laugh off letters and don’t really believe their co-owner will ever take action. Our attorneys estimate that in about 80% of cases, a letter does nothing but delay the inevitable partition action. A letter can easily be thrown out and ignored with no legal repercussions, but a partition complaint needs to be addressed immediately by a co-owner defendant. The mere fact that you are reading this article indicates that you want to sell a property but have one or more co-owners who are refusing to cooperate, meaning that you may be past the point where a letter would be helpful to you.

The real problem with demand letters is the awkwardness and delays that they create. Notably, demand letters often include some kind of date for action. Defendants may respond by claiming they are working on some kind of buyout, maybe claiming they will refinance after they fix some issue on their credit report or that they will agree to sell after some ambiguous event in their life is over. This creates an awkwardness for the owner demanding the sale to file the partition complaint because effectively you are alleging that the other co-owner will never move forward with their proposed action. In our assessment, once you are already reviewing partition attorney blogs like this one, the coownership relationship has fallen apart such that the best course of action is just to file the partition and include a cover letter with the complaint.

Additionally, the attorney time it takes to draft and analyze a letter to your co-owner is similar to the time it would take him or her to draft and file a partition complaint. If your co-owner simply ignores the letter and you are forced to file a partition anyway, you are now paying for that attorney time as well. We suggest that you to contact a partition attorney who can evaluate your unique circumstances and help you achieve the best possible result in your case, whether that is by drafting a letter or filing a complaint.

Sample Letter Demanding Sale of Buyout of Co-Owner of California Real Estate

Our attorneys have created this sample letter to assist those who feel that a letter is the best course of action. Again, consulting with a partition lawyer can help you decide the best course of action given the facts of your case.

[Defendant Address]

Re:       Cooperation with Orderly Sale of Property

Property: [Property Address]

Dear [Defendant],

As you are aware, [Plaintiff] is a co-owner of the real property located at [Property Address] (the “Property”), holding a [ownership interest %] undivided interest as a [joint tenant or tenant in common] along with you. [Plaintiff] is no longer interested in maintaining a co-ownership interest in the Property. Indeed, [Plaintiff] is ready to file a complaint in the Superior Court of California, County of [Property County] to bring an end to the co-ownership relationship. However, before filing an action for partition, [Plaintiff] is sending this letter urging you to cooperate in an orderly sale of the Property.

If you choose not to cooperate with the orderly sale of the Property or purchase of the [Plaintiff]’s [ownership interest %] ownership interest in the property, [Plaintiff] will have no choice but to litigate the complaint to partition the Property by sale to a third party upon order of the Court. Should that occur, it is important to understand that [Plaintiff]’s request for partition will cause the Court to order that the Property be sold without regard to whether you agree to do so. California law is clear that, “ordinarily, where realty is owned by cotenants, one cotenant has absolute right to partition, and if partition cannot be made without great prejudice, the court under statute may order a sale.Priddel v. Shankie (1945) 69 Cal.App. 2d 319.

If court action is required, the costs of sale will be increased by attorney’s fees, court costs, and the employment of a court-appointed referee to list and sell the Property. All these fees will diminish the proceeds available to pay you as a co-owner of the Property; especially in light of the low equity available in the Property.

Further, the court may find that a co-owner who does not cooperate in listing the Property may be liable for all attorney’s fees, court costs and referee fees. This is because “the costs of partition include reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, necessarily incurred by a party for the common benefit . . . .” Cal. Code. Civ. Proc. § 874.020(b). In turn, the cost of partition includes “reasonable attorney’s fees incurred or paid by a party for the common benefit.” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 874.010(a). In awarding these fees, the court may “make such . . . apportionment as may be equitable.” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 874.040. A court may find it equitable for the cooperative co-owners to not be burdened with the attorney’s fees, court costs and referee fees that could have been avoided simply by cooperating with an orderly sale of the Property. We hope that you will cooperate in this matter such that this will not be necessary.

The most efficient solution to settle this action is to sell the Property on the open market. When a ready, willing, and able buyer is located, escrow will also request that you sign a deed granting your interest in the Property to the buyer. In exchange, you will receive your fair share proceeds of sale in line with your ownership interest.

Alternatively, [Plaintiff] would be amenable to a buy-out of [his/her] [ownership interest %] ownership interest.

Should you be willing to cooperate in the orderly sale of the Property, then let me know at your earliest convenience and I will arrange for a listing agreement to be drawn up shortly thereafter. If this office does not receive communication from you indicating that you are willing to cooperate with an orderly sale of the Property on the open market, the partition action will continue.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at [Phone Number] or [Email Address]


Talkov Law's Partition Attorneys Can Help

If you want to end your co-ownership relationship, but your co-owner won’t agree, a partition action is your only option. With seven, full time partition lawyers, Talkov Law is the #1 partition law firm in California and has handled over 260 partition actions throughout California. Every case has resulted in a sale to either a third party or one of the co-owners. Not a single court has denied our clients the right to partition or declared our client to be a non-owner. Plus, for qualified cases, there is no fee until we settle or win your case!

If you're looking to end your co-ownership dispute, contact California's premier partition action law firm by calling Talkov Law at (844) 4-TALKOV (825568) or sending us a message today.

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The partition attorneys at Talkov Law end co-ownership disputes by representing co-owners in real estate partition actions throughout the State of California.

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