You are probably reading this because you are buying or dealing with a property which is now or which you intend to be owned by two or more parties.

Jointly owning a property means you will be recorded as owning it as either “joint tenants” or “tenants in common”.

(“Tenants” in these technical legal expressions has nothing to do with you being “a tenant” as in “someone who rents property” and the expressions will be used whether you are to be joint owners of either freehold or leasehold property)

The type of ownership affects what you can do with the property if your relationship with a joint owner breaks down, or if one owner dies or becomes mentally incapable of managing their own affairs.

We are always happy to provide detailed legal advice as there may be implications for your future ownership of property arising from either form of joint ownership.

The distinctions between the two types of ownership are as follows:

Joint tenants:

As joint tenants (sometimes called ‘beneficial joint tenants’):

  • you have equal rights to the whole property
  • the property automatically goes to the other owners if you die
  • you can’t pass on your ownership of the property in your will

Tenants in common:

As tenants in common:

  • you can own different shares of the property
  • the property doesn’t automatically go to the other owners if you die
  • you can pass on your share of the property in your will

Neither type of joint ownership is unchangeable but it is much easier to go from joint tenants to tenants in common than the other way round,  so it is worth taking some time to work out what will be the best form of joint ownership for you at the outset, if you can.

If you do need to change the type of ownership you first select, you can change from being:

  • joint tenants to tenants in common, for example if you divorce or separate and want to leave your share of the property to someone else
  • tenants in common to joint tenants, for example if you get married and want to have equal rights to the whole property
  • or, of course, from sole ownership to tenants in common or joint tenants, for example, if you want to add your partner as joint owner.

As joint owners you may need to apply to the Court of Protection if you want to sell the property but the other owner has lost mental capacity.