Joint Tenant or Tenants in Common?

There are two different ways in which you can jointly own a property in England and Wales. As joint tenants or, as tenants in common.

Joint Tenants
A joint tenancy means that each of the co-owners jointly own the whole of the property, rather than a specific share. This is the default position.

Joint tenants inherit the property under the ‘rule of survivorship’. This means that if one of the co-owners dies, the survivor/s will automatically inherit the deceased’s share equally between them, regardless of the terms of the deceased’s will or rules of intestacy.

If the property is sold, the co-owners are each entitled to half the sale proceeds regardless of how much each contributed to the purchase price or any mortgage repayments.

Tenants in Common
Tenancy in common means that each of the co-owners own a specific share interest in the property. If one of the co-owners dies, the survivor/s will not automatically inherit the deceased’s share. The deceased’s share will pass to beneficiaries in accordance with his/her will or intestacy rules.

Co-owners under a tenancy in common can either own the property in equal shares or hold specific share interest in accordance with their specific contributions towards the purchase of the property.

Declaration of Trust
If a property is held as tenants in common, co-owners can draw up a declaration of trust which is a private document to record each co-owner’s share interest in the property. It can also record the contributions each co-owner has made towards the purchase and their responsibilities towards repayment of any mortgage or other outgoings.

Changing from Joint Tenancy to Tenancy in Common
If a property is held by co-owners as joint tenants, they can later decide to hold the property as tenants in common. This is known as severance of the joint tenancy. To severe a joint tenancy, an application can be made to Land Registry.

What is best: a Joint Tenancy or a Tenancy in Common?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. What is best depends on purchasers individual circumstances. Married couples may choose a joint tenancy as they may not consider it necessary to define separate share interests, especially, if they intend for the property to pass automatically to the surviving spouse if one of them dies.

A tenancy in common may be more suitable for couples who are not married, siblings or business partners purchasing together, or parents purchasing with their children. In these circumstances, one owner may not want the other owner(s) to automatically inherit their share.

It is important to consider the method of ownership which best suits your situation and make a decision on this before you proceed to exchange of contracts.

If you have any queries regarding the two methods of ownership you can contact Varsha Varsani at Meaby & Co: vvarsani@meaby.co.uk or call 0207 703 5034.

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