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Owning a Property Together: Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common?

Published on July 6th, 2020

Ricky Allen
Senior Associate

When property is owned jointly there are two forms of legal ownership. The property can either be held by the co-owners as joint tenants (a joint tenancy) or as tenants in common (a tenancy in common). There are important distinctions between them both. It is important that you are aware of the difference between the two and that you decide which suits your circumstances. 

Joint Tenants 

If you hold the property as joint tenants then the right of survivorship applies. This means that on death of one owner his/her share will automatically pass to the surviving owner and will not pass to the beneficiary of any will that they may have (or under the rules of intestacy or no Will is in place).  For instance, someone has a child from a previous relationship and has a will in place leaving for all of their estate to go to their child. They then invest all of their savings into a new property with their new partner and purchase the property as joint tenants. Upon their death their share in the property will automatically pass to their new partner (the surviving owner) and the gift in their will to their child will fail leaving them with nothing.

If you purchase the property as joint tenants there is also an assumption that you own the property equally even if you have contributed to the purchase in unequal shares. The co-owners are considered to be one owner together and accordingly both own 100% of the property.

Tenants in Common

If you hold the property as tenants in common then the right of survivorship does not apply. This means that upon the death of one of the owners then the deceased’s share does not automatically pass to the surviving co-owner. The deceased’s share of the property will pass under the terms of their Will (or under the rules of intestacy if there is no valid will).
Buying a property as Tenants in Common also means that the co-owners have separate shares in the property so rather than both owners owning 100% of the property together (joint tenancy) they will own separate shares. These can either be equal shares (a 50/50 split) or unequal shares. A tenancy in common is commonplace where the purchasers are not married or where the contributions to the purchase price are unequal. In the event that the purchasers have contributed unequally to the purchase price we recommend you prepare a Trust Deed / Declaration of Trust. This is extremely useful in the case of separation as it will confirm on what basis you hold the property.

Changing how you own the property together

When you purchase a property together your conveyancer will take your instructions on co-ownership and this will be recited in the TR1 Transfer Deed so that the correct entries are made on the Land Registry Title on registration. If you do, at a later, point change your mind you can do this fairly easily. To convert a joint tenancy into a tenancy in common one of the co-owners can serve a notice on the other owner giving them notice of this. This is called a notice of severance of the joint tenancy and can be done by one owner unilaterally and does not require the consent of the other co-owner.
A tenancy in common can be converted into a joint tenancy although this is not as straightforward and requires the consent of all the other joint owners. The co-owners need to enter into a trust deed and sign a statement of truth to update the Land Registry title.

Whether you opt for a joint tenancy or a tenancy in common while largely depend on your own personal circumstances.  If you would like to discuss the co-ownership of your property such as the question of Tenants In Common or Joint Tenants please do not hesitate to contact Ricky Allen on 01200 422152 or ricky.allen@houldsworthsolicitors.co.uk

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The information provided in our articles reflects only a narrative of some elements to consider on the topic. The articles do not contain considered legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. If you are interested in obtaining advice, please contact one of our lawyers who will be happy and able to advise you on your own particular circumstances.