McFerran law, P.S.is in the practice of representing clients in all matters real estate. The firm, founded over 35 years ago, has kept that focus since it first opened its doors. We are happy to represent parties in partition disputes as that is an integral part of our normal real estate practice. If you are reading this article you may be a co-owner of real estate that, for some reason, your other co-owner and you can’t agree as to whether to keep the property or sell it. This is the essence of a typical type of property ownership dispute that may result in a formal partition action in court.
What is a Real Estate Partition Action?
A partition action in the State of Washington is a type of real estate lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of the county where the disputed property is located where two or more co-owners of real estate cannot agree as to whether to sell the property or not. One owner, seeing a robust highly appreciating marketplace, wants to sell. The other owner, seeing adverse tax consequences or other reasons, would like to the property in the family and refuses to sell. They are at impasse. The partition action is generally filed by one party asking the courts assistance in forcing a sale or other division of the property. Generally speaking, absent some kind of written agreement to the contrary, which generally doesn’t exist, the parties seeking to hold onto the property are on shaky ground legally.
A partition action can generally result in a forced sale of the whole property or the court may split the property into two parts. That may or may not be feasible for a wide variety of circumstances. It is a court action where the parties are asking the judge to use his equitable powers to, in some fashion, “split the baby in half”.
Different Types of Partition Actions
Partition Actions Can Occur in a Variety of Circumstances:
A partition by sale is probably the most common court determination. The plaintiff asks the court to order that the property be listed and sold and the court may play a role in the whole process of doing so as the court is aware one party does not want to sell.
A partition in kind is less common and creates a whole variety of issues between the parties as splitting a piece of raw land in half may result in each half having equal value; but, more often than not, the value of a piece of property does not spread equally to every square foot of the property.
The property may have one building that would have to belong to both parties resulting into an impossible situation. Partition in kind is also uncommon because most properties do not lend themselves to being divided. It is common if the property sets as a whole will render a higher value then a court will opt for a partition by sale over a partition in kind. There are many obstacles to a partition in kind judgment.
A partition by buy-out involves a situation where one co-owner will buy out the interest of the other co-owner. The court will generally play the role to assure that the property is sold/purchased for an appropriate fair market value as well as ordering an appraisal to determine value.
Typical Partition Actions in Washington State
Our law office has been involved, over these many years, with a variety of partition actions. We do note for our readers that very few partition actions actually go to a full trial. In most instances, the facts are actually not in dispute. The court is asked to intervene when the co-owners can’t agree. The fact that most parties know what most courts will do causes many of these cases to settle before trial.
Some Actions in the State of Washington Include:
- Siblings who have inherited a property through probate of their father cannot agree as to whether to sell or hold. Two siblings want to sell and one sibling wants to hold. Court forced sale in partition.
- Co-owner of acreage in Washington that was raw land and one parcel number. Client owned a percentage interest and other co-owner did not want to sell. Court divided the property into two parts allowing one co-owner to sell his portion.
- Co-owner of family residence that they owned together wanted to sell, but co-owner occupying the property did not. Occupying party couldn’t buy out the other. Court ruled to force sale.
- Co-owner after an agreed settlement to sell, refused to go to escrow. Our offices obtained an order of the court to have a court appointed magistrate sign at escrow. Client obtain full award of attorney fees and costs after defaulting seller.
- Co-owner did not pay her portion of mortgage debt, costs of property taxes and insurance and lived in co-owned property for three years with no contributions. Court ruled to force sale and from proceeds to award non-defaulting party a reimbursement of his advances for three years. In addition, court awarded party his attorney fees and costs by virtue of other co-owners delaying actions.
We Welcome the Opportunity to Consult with You on Your Real Estate Partition Matter
Our real estate partition attorneys at McFerran Law always have slots open in their daily schedule to meet with clients on new real estate matters. In many cases that one initial consultation can address all the needs of a client on a particular real estate, business, probate or tax deferred exchange matter.
We do not provide free consultations (except in the 1031 tax deferred exchange practice area). We pride ourselves that a single initial one-hour consultation will provide most clients all the information they need to move forward with their legal matter. We don’t have to research, investigate or learn about real estate law matters. Our attorneys can answer on the spot in that initial consultation most real estate questions you may have as they have over 35 years of experience. They only do real estate and matters related to real estate!
McFerran Law has a Special $150 New Matter Consultation Rate
Our real estate partition attorneys can meet with you by phone, Zoom or in our office for an up to a one-hour time period to go over, in detail, your legal matter and generally provide you valuable legal information to assist you in your individual situation. If your matter will require additional services, your attorney will generally be able to provide you an estimate for such services as well.