Tenants in Common vs Joint Tenancy: The Differences and Implications

When you are buying a property, if you are buying it jointly with another person your conveyancing lawyer will ask you whether you are going to own as ‘tenants in common’ or ‘joint tenants’. This can be quite confusing if you haven’t come across it before. Of course, your conveyancer will give you full advice based on your own particular circumstances, but here is a brief outline of the two forms of joint property ownership and how they differ.

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What Does Tenants in Common Mean?

When property is owned as tenants in common each owner owns a defined share in the property. This could be half each or a unequal split such as 60/40.

It is important to have a ‘declaration of trust’ drafted by a lawyer if you wish to own property in unequal shares.

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Each owner is free to deal with their share as they wish, such as to leave it to a third party in their will. It is especially important for tenants in common to make a will so that their share is left to the person they wish. If there is no will, the share in the property will be dealt with under the intestacy rules, which may not be how the owner would have wished.

What Does Joint Tenants Mean?

When you own property as joint tenants you each own the whole of the property. It works in the same way as a joint bank account, where either one of you could treat all of the money in the account as your own. When one joint tenant dies their share automatically passes to the remaining joint tenant. It cannot be left to someone else in the joint tenant’s will.

Professional advice on the most suitable form of joint ownership for you and your co-owner is just one of the many reasons you should instruct an experienced conveyancer. Get a conveyancing quote before proceeding. A conveyancing quote will give you an idea of the cost involved.

Whichever form of joint ownership you choose, it is possible to convert from one form of ownership to another. Consult a conveyancer, who will be pleased to advise you and draft the necessary documents. It is quite common to change from tenants in common to joint tenants upon marriage and to end a joint tenancy if divorce is contemplated.