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Waiver of Right to Partition in California

When relationships sour and one party wants out of a co-ownership relationship by way of a partition action, the other party may feel betrayed and outraged. These feelings of resentment often manifest themselves in legal proceedings as defendants are quick to claim just about anything to try to delay the inevitable sale of the property through an interlocutory judgment of partition. A common misconception that some partition defendants have is that they can successfully show the court that the plaintiff waived his or her right to partition. However, waiver to partition is extremely rare and requires specific circumstances rarely seen in co-owned real estate.

Generally, the right to partition is absolute

First, multiple California courts have come to the same conclusion that there is an absolute right to partition. One court found that: “A co-owner of property has an absolute right to partition unless barred by a valid waiver.” [1]Orien v. Lutz (2017) 16 Cal. App. 5th 957. Yet another court explained that: “if the party seeking partition is shown to be a tenant in common, and as such entitled to the possession of the land sought to be partitioned, the right is absolute.” [2]Bacon v. Wahrhaftig (1950) 97 Cal.App. 2d 599, 603. Indeed, “a cotenant is entitled to partition as a matter of absolute right; that he need not assign any reason for his demand;…The only indispensable requirement to its award is that a clear title be shown, and in no event is a partition to be denied because it will result in financial loss to the cotenants.” [3]American Medical International, Inc. v. Feller (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 1008, 1013. It is well-established in California that co-owners have an absolute right to partition. Understandably, courts are hesitant to interfere with this absolute right by finding that the right to partition was waived.

Absolute Right to Partition in California

Waiver of right to partition is uncommon

Both the right to partition and potential for a waiver of the right to partition is found in the California partition statutes, stating that “partition [of] the property shall be as of right unless barred by a valid waiver.” [4]Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 872.710(b). Ordinarily, such a waiver would be written and approved of as “an agreement among co-owners of property….”[5]Orien v. Lutz (2017) 16 Cal. App. 5th 957, 963. Many such waivers would be found in writing in a tenancy-in-common (TIC) agreement. However, usually, tenancy-in-common agreements are drafted when unrelated parties own one parcel of land, but effectively occupy different parts of the property. Basically, this is a form of subdividing the property without going through the legal proceedings to do so.

As between ordinary co-owners with the right to jointly occupy one property, written agreements between co-owners of real property are rarely seen in California. Rather, most co-owners simply accept a deed placing multiple owners on title, then realize the complications of doing so later. Indeed, a waiver of partition is extremely rare, and courts are sure to scrutinize any claims of waiver due to co-owners’ absolute right to partition. Since there is no formal agreement, a defendant would be forced to show that the waiver of the right to partition occurred in an informal manner, such as by email, text message, or otherwise.

Waiver is almost always explicit and in writing

“[T]he right of partition may be waived by contract, either express or implied.”[6]LEG Investments v. Boxler (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 484, 493, quoting American Medical International, Inc. v. Feller (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 1008, 1014. When waiver of the right to partition does occur, it is usually written and unambiguous in its intent. One court found an express waiver where there was a “written agreement that provided that one party would not sell his one-half interest without giving the other coowner the right to purchase it at a price not in excess of the original purchase price.”[7]American Medical International, Inc. v. Feller (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 1008, 1014.

Cases where courts have found waiver in the partition context are rare and typically include a writing or known prior restriction. [8]See, e.g., American Medical International, Inc. v. Feller (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 1008, 1013; Pine v. Tiedt (1965) 232 Cal. App. 2d 733; Thomas v. Witte (1963) 214 Cal. App. 2d 322; Miranda v. Miranda … Continue reading This is unsurprising, since if an implied waiver could be found on ordinary facts involving the purchase of a home for personal occupation, the very purpose of partition would be frustrated.

Waiver requires clear and convincing evidence

“Case law is clear that waiver is the intentional relinquishment of a known right after knowledge of the facts. The burden … is on the party claiming a waiver of a right to prove it by clear and convincing evidence that does not leave the matter to speculation, and doubtful cases will be decided against a waiver.” Waller v. Truck Ins. Exchange, Inc. (1995) 11 Cal.4th 1, 31, as modified on denial of reh’g (Oct. 26, 1995) (quoting City of Ukiah v. Fones (1966) 64 Cal.2d 104, 107–108); see Rosenberg-Wohl v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (2023) 93 Cal.App.5th 436, 455 (quoting Waller). The clear and convincing evidence standard “is particularly apropos in cases in which the right in question is one that is ‘favored’ in the law….” City of Ukiah v. Fones (1966) 64 Cal.2d 104, 107–108. “Partition is a remedy much favored by the law.” LEG Investments v. Boxler (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 484, 493.

Implied waiver

Some defendants may argue that, although there was not an express and/or written waiver, there was an implied waiver. One court found that “The policy behind a partition action is to permanently end all disputes about property and to remove all obstructions to its free enjoyment” and that “the interpretation of [an] implied waiver…would defeat this policy.”[9]LEG Investments v. Boxler (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 484, 497

Courts have found that an implied waiver is appropriate only under certain circumstances, usually with the wavier limited to a defined amount time, i.e., the waiver ends upon the happening of a condition. “‘Implied’ waiver of partition has been found where cotenants agreed to a plan designed to develop property over a period of time (Thomas v. Witte (1963) 214 Cal.App.2d 322, 29 Cal.Rptr. 412) or invested in property which was subject to a long-term lease with a view toward obtaining a secure source of investment income (Pine v. Tiedt (1965) 232 Cal.App.2d 733, 43 Cal.Rptr. 184).”[10]American Medical International, Inc. v. Feller (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 1008, 1015. One court found that one co-owner could occupy the home under certain conditions, which “constitute[ed] a restriction upon the rights of the parties to partition the property so long as these conditions exist, and constitutes a waiver of the right of either party to a partition during the prescribed period.”[11]Miranda v. Miranda (1947) 81 Cal.App.2d 61, 68.

The fact remains that waiver, whether express or implied, is a rare occurrence in California partition actions.

Did I Accidentally Waive My Right to Partition?

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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 300 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.

References

References
1 Orien v. Lutz (2017) 16 Cal. App. 5th 957.
2 Bacon v. Wahrhaftig (1950) 97 Cal.App. 2d 599, 603.
3 American Medical International, Inc. v. Feller (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 1008, 1013.
4 Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 872.710(b).
5 Orien v. Lutz (2017) 16 Cal. App. 5th 957, 963.
6 LEG Investments v. Boxler (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 484, 493, quoting American Medical International, Inc. v. Feller (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 1008, 1014.
7 American Medical International, Inc. v. Feller (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 1008, 1014.
8 See, e.g., American Medical International, Inc. v. Feller (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 1008, 1013; Pine v. Tiedt (1965) 232 Cal. App. 2d 733; Thomas v. Witte (1963) 214 Cal. App. 2d 322; Miranda v. Miranda (1947) 81 Cal.App.2d 61, 68.
9 LEG Investments v. Boxler (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 484, 497
10 American Medical International, Inc. v. Feller (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 1008, 1015.
11 Miranda v. Miranda (1947) 81 Cal.App.2d 61, 68.
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