This question is always asked to people who own a property with somebody else. It is extremely common that people do not know the actual answer and they often ask what the difference is between the two options.
So, what is the difference between the two ways of holding a property?
If you hold a property as Joint Tenants, you hold the property in equal shares and you have equal rights to the whole property.
This type of ownership also means that if one of the owners were to die, their share would automatically pass to the surviving owner/owners. This is the case even if a Will has been prepared to reflect that the property is to be inherited by somebody else.
If you hold a property as Joint Tenants, you cannot pass on your ownership of the property in your Will.
Tenants in Common
If you hold a property as Tenants in Common, it does not necessarily mean that you hold equal shares with a co-owner and it is possible to hold the property in unequal shares. Holding a property as Tenants in Common also means that if one owner passes away, their share would not automatically pass to the survivor, but would pass in accordance with their Will (if they have prepared one) or under the Rules of Intestacy.
How can I check if the property is held as joint tenants or tenants in common?
If you are still not sure how you hold a property with someone, you should check this your title deed. You can obtain a copy of this from the Land Registry.
If you hold the property as tenants in common, your title deed will have a paragraph similar to: "No disposition by a sole proprietor of the registered estate (except a trust corporation) under which capital money arises is to be registered unless authorised by an order of the court".
If there is no such wording in the title deed, then you are almost certainly joint tenants.
I want to change how we hold the property
You may find that you would like to change how you own a property with someone
In particular, if you are in the process of divorcing or separating from somebody you own a property with as joint tenants, you may wish to consider changing the ownership to tenants in common so that you can leave your share of the property to someone else.
To change from joint tenants to tenants in common you will need to sever the tenancy and send an application to the Land Registry. You do not need the agreement of other joint owners to do this.
Alternatively, you may be holding a property as tenants in common and wish to change this to joint tenants. To do this you will need to make an application to the Land Registry together with a trust document as you will need the agreement of all other joint owners to change the title to joint tenants.
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The contents of this article is general information only. The information in this article is not legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should obtain independent expert advice from qualified solicitors such as those within our firm.