Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

My uncle bought a house in 20 years ago for $230,000 and his sister paid $11,000 to help with the down payment, so she was put on the deed. She has not paid a penny ever since and she occupies a bedroom with her stuff even though she never lives in the house. Now the house is worth about $500,000. She wants $100,000 to go back to Hong Kong. My uncle was really shocked and disheartened by this.

The sister is entitled to 50% of the ownership since the deed did not specify the percentage, so she should get $250K. My uncle and his sister were on the mortgage but my uncle single-handedly paid off everything. So 20 years of expenses are about $540K in total. $80K(property tax)+$50K(maintenance)+$200K(mortgage principal)+$200K(mortgage interest expenses)+$10K(homeowner insurance). I have not included utilities. So does that mean that the sister should pay my uncle 50% of the $540K, which is $270K? Is the court going to handle the case like this? also if the sister's share would be one half of the home's current fair market value less an approximate 10% for having a fractionalized interest. What does the 10% fractional interest reduction mean?

What do you think is the reasonable amount that the court will award the sister?

Thank you!

Asked on 8/21/11, 12:07 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

George Shers Law Offices of Georges H. Shers

you need to tel us what the intend of the two was as to her $11,000. Was it a loan, gift, ownership purchase, etc. What is the social custom as to their ethnic background as to how such a transaction would be handled?

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Answered on 8/21/11, 7:05 am
Daniel Bakondi The Law Office of Daniel Bakondi

You may be able to sue her and seek declaratory relief, that the amount she put in $11k, was not intended to give her half of the property. I am pretty good a proving things like this through circumstantial evidence and testimony. Likely, a settlement can be reached for less than $270k. Please send me an email if you would like me to handle this for you.


Daniel Bakondi, Esq.

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The Law Office of Daniel Bakondi, APLC

870 Market Street, Suite 1161

San Francisco CA 94102

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Answered on 8/21/11, 10:50 am
Timothy McCormick Haapala, Thompson & Abern, LLP

You have gotten two VERY bad answers. There is NO way to answer the question with the information you have provided. First off, you fail to tell us how much your uncle put into the down payment, specifically whether it was more or less than $11,000. If it was unequal, what evidence is there that the sister was not supposed to receive a full 1/2 interest. As for the post-purchase payments by your uncle, some of those are reimbursable to him and some are not. An attorney would have to sit down and go over all the finances to figure out exactly what he gets credit for and what he does not. A court will most definitely handle a matter such as this if they cannot negotiate an agreement. The case is called a partition action. Even if a partition action is filed, however, 99.9% of the time the case settles with either one owner buying the other out, or an agreement to sell the property and how to divide the proceeds. I have handled a number of partition cases, and have settled about half without having to file with the court, and all of them settling one way or another. If your uncle would like a free initial consultation in one of my Santa Clara County conference facilities, please give me a call.

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Answered on 8/22/11, 1:16 pm

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