What is Joint Tenancy?

In this blog, we’ll unravel the intricacies of property co-ownership, specifically the difference between ‘Joint Tenancy’ or ‘Tenants in Common’, and how these choices can profoundly affect your ownership experience. Did you know that there are significant legal and financial differences between both?

How does a Joint Tenancy work?

Property ownership can be shared in two different ways – ‘Joint Ownership’ and ‘Tenants in Common’.

Property can be purchased by any kind of pairing, such as spouses or business partners. However, when this purchase is made, it’s important that the legal title under which the property is held, is clear. This is because future contingencies must be considered, and these will differ between circumstances (like whether the joint owners are personally or professionally related).

Joint Ownership/Joint Tenancy

‘Joint Ownership’, which is also known as ‘Joint Tenancy’, considers both partners the legal owner. However, when one partner passes away, the property remains with the surviving party. This is because the deceased’s ‘interest’ disappears, and nothing needs to done other than to record the death. The property cannot be inherited by the deceased’s relatives because the property still has a living legal owner, this being the co-owner that survived them.

As joint tenants you have an undivided share of the whole property. Up to four people can own the same property. (you cannot have more than four parties registered at the Land Registry).

Tenancy in Common

‘Tenancy in Common’ considers the property to be split between its owners as separate percentages known as shares. These shares do not have to be equal, which means one party could have a much higher share than the other. Because each party is only legally entitled to their own percentage, that share will be inherited by next of kin. Thus, the surviving co-owner of the property will not get this share by default.

For ‘Tenants in Common’ it is sensible and sometimes necessary to document the precise agreement between the owners. This agreement is best recorded in a formal trust deed.

Joint Tenancy versus Tenants In Common

The ideal form of ‘Shared Ownership’ depends on the co-owner’s circumstances and their individual interests.

‘Joint Ownership’ has an appeal for being convenient and simple, leaving minimal paperwork in the event of a death when it comes to who now owns the property. ‘Joint Ownership’ may be preferable if a property owner does not wish for their share to be inherited by their next of kin and would prefer the property to remain with their co-owner. This is often why married couples are in ‘Joint Ownership’ so that the property remains within the marriage by law.

‘Tenancy in Common’ is usually recommended by solicitors because it gives each co-owner more agency when it comes to their share. When a property is split unevenly for example, the party with the larger share may not wish for all of it to go to their co-owner. This is often the case in circumstances such as unmarried couples and business partners where events can change. For example, a business property co-owner may wish for their share to go to their family instead of their partner.

What happens if a shared property owner passes away?

In the event of a shared property owner dying, ‘Tenants in Common’ is recommended if they would not wish for their share to automatically go to their co-owner. A remarried parent may wish to bequeath their share to children from their previous marriage and not their new spouse.

‘Tenants in Common’ may also reduce potential inheritance liabilities, as a party will have greater autonomy over what would be inherited by their next of kin and, as a result, more control over the consequential inheritance tax.

Overall, a good rule of thumb for choosing ‘Tenants in Common’ is when the co-owners will be making unequal contributions toward the property, or there is no positive reason to consider ‘Joint Ownership’.

Thomas and Thomas Solicitors understands that buying or selling a property can be one of the most important financial commitments you will make in your lifetime, and we are here to ensure that the process is handled seamlessly. Our solicitors will guide you through every step of the process.