6.1.1 Joint Tenancies v Tenancies In Common - Introduction

Welcome to the sixth topic in this module guide - Co-ownership! Co-ownership is where any two or more persons each simultaneously owns a given estate in land and are thus entitled to an interest, or interests, in that estate. The two types of co-ownership covered in this module are joint tenancies and tenancies in common. The reference to tenants here has nothing to do with tenants and landlords. Tenant here simply means ‘owner.’

A joint tenancy exists when each person owns the whole of the property - in other words, each person has a 100% stake in the property's value. In the eyes of the law, joint tenants must act as a single owner. Upon death, the deceased’s part of the property automatically passes to the survivor(s) and the deceased cannot leave their part of the property to someone else in their will. If joint tenants wish to sell the property, they must all be in agreement. In relation to joint tenancies, this module will cover: survivorship, how and why a joint tenancy might be changed, the four unities; and the issues surrounding family breakdowns and joint tenancies.

Tenants in common exist when each person owns a separate share of the property, and these shares do not have to be equally sized. Unlike a joint tenancy, each owner can leave their share of the property to whoever they choose in their will upon death. However, as with a joint tenancy all tenants must all agree if they want to sell the property. In relation to tenants in common, this module will cover: right of survivorship; the unity of possession; rights of occupation and enjoyment; the payment of rent; contributions towards the maintenance of the land; and equity’s preference for tenancies in common.

Goals for this section:

  • To be able to identify the distinctions between joint tenancies and tenancies in common.
  • To be able to analyse and evaluate why equity prefers tenancies in common over joint tenancies.

Objectives for this section:

  • To understand the concept of the right of survivorship as it relates to joint tenancies.
  • To appreciate and comprehend the rights tenants in common have, such as the right of occupation and enjoyment, and the right not to pay rent to occupy the property.
  • To understand the result of a tenant in common’s contributions towards the maintenance of the land.
  • To appreciate the importance of the four unities; possession, interest, title and time.

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