Whether you’re navigating a conveyancing process or considering a property purchase, it’s essential to understand the differences between Tenancy in Common and Joint Tenancy. 

Knowing the definitions, implications, and benefits of each ownership structure can help you make informed decisions, protect your investment, and ensure smooth property transactions. 

This guide will provide you with key insights into these co-ownership arrangements, helping you choose the best option for your specific needs and circumstances.

What does “joint tenants” mean?

Joint tenancy (joint tenants) refers to a co-ownership, where two registered owners of a property share a 50/50 split in the interest (ownership) of the land. When you buy a house, to finalise the legal proceedings, you will have to elect how you and your co-owner would like to hold the property. What distinguishes joint tenancy, is that if one of the registered title holders passes away, their share automatically transfers to the surviving joint tenant. This is known as a “right of survivorship”, where the mortgage on a home is transferred based on the co-ownership agreement on the title.

What does “tenants in common” mean?

Tenancy in common (tenants in common) is the other form of co-ownership over a property. However, unlike joint tenants which requires an equal half split, the two registered title owners can decide to split their interest in the land to be weighted in favour of either person. For example, two property owners can have any share of the property (10/90, 30/70, etc.). Similarly to joint tenancy, the share can be an equal split of 50/50 as well. The key difference regarding tenants in common is that if there is a death of one of the owners, their share or interest of the land is decided according to according to their will. 

This means that rather than the sole survivor having full ownership of a property, they are still only entitled to their original portion, with the beneficiaries of the deceased usually holding their previous co-owners share. These beneficiaries can inherit, sell or transfer their share.

Is Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common better for me?

To understand which ownership is best for you, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Keep in mind that you can always change the tenancy from joint tenants to tenants in common (or vice versa) after taking possession of the title on a land registry. However, there may be registration fees involved

Joint Tenant Advantages

  1. Right of survivorship – If one of the owners dies, their share automatically transfers to the surviving owner(s) without going through probate (a long legal procedure validating a deceased person’s will in the Supreme Court). This is very common for couples.
  2. Shared responsibility – All of the owners possess equal responsibility and rights for the property, including maintenance and taxes.
  3. Simplicity – Joint tenancy is the most common ownership agreement and is relatively straightforward to establish and maintain.
  1. Finite control – Each owner cannot independently sell or mortgage their share without the agreement of the other owner(s).
  2. Potential conflict – Disagreements among owners, or separations, can arise regarding decisions related to the estate and lead to divisions of the property. In cases of a divorce, the tenants often require division by agreement, where typically one spouse will have to buy out the other’s share or sell the property and split the shares.
  3. Equal ownership – The ownership shares are equal, regardless of financial contributions, investments, or maintenance efforts.
  1. Flexibility – Owners can hold an unequal divided share of the property based on their financial contributions or agreements.
  2. Individual control – Each owner possesses the right to sell, mortgage, or transfer their share without requiring the consent of the other owner(s).
  3. Estate planning – Owners can specify their share to pass to their chosen beneficiaries through their will.
  1. No right of survivorship – There is no automatic transfer of ownership to the remaining owners, and the deceased owner’s share passes according to intestacy laws or their will.
  2. Probate – In the circumstances of an owner’s death, their share would become subject to probate which causes a major delay in the distribution of their assets and estate. The value of their share can also be subject to inheritance tax if it exceeds certain thresholds set by taxation authorities.
  3. Potential conflict – In many cases, disagreements among owners may arise regarding the estate and will decisions. Similarly to joint tenancy, in cases of a divorce, the tenants often require division by agreement, where typically one spouse will have to buy out the other’s share or sell the property and split the shares.

Key Takeaways?

Joint tenancy is defined as an ownership of property with an equal share of land and right of survivorship where the death of an owner automatically transfers their share to the surviving owner. The definition of tenancy in common is the ownership of any share of land with no right of survivorship, where the death of an owner transfers their share according to their will. 

When understanding rights inter se, as well as balancing the pros and cons, there is no “right” answer, as everyone’s ownership situation is different. It is important to acknowledge each owner’s financial contribution and maintenance exertion before coming to a title agreement.

It is also important to remember that the ownership title deed can always be transferred or amended, no matter the length of the tenure. This means the decision you make can always be changed in future if all owners consent.

Need Guidance on Property Ownership and Title Deeds?

Understanding the nuances between joint tenancy and tenancy in common is crucial for making informed decisions about property ownership. 

If you need guidance on which ownership structure is best for you or assistance with amending your title deed, contact our expert conveyancing team at Stanford Legal.

Book a free consultation today to ensure your property ownership aligns with your needs and future plans.