What Is the Difference Between Joint Tenants and Tenants in Common?

If more than one person owns a property, then they can legally hold this in one of two ways – either as joint tenants or tenants in common. But what is the difference between the two and what does it mean for you as a joint owner of a property?

If you were to hold your property as joint tenants then this means that on the death of one of you the property will automatically pass to the surviving owner(s) and does not form part of the assets dealt with under the terms of the deceased’s person Will. This is the most common way people tend to hold their property. If a property was held as tenants in common, then each owner would hold a distinct legal share in the property. Your distinct share in the property will then form part of your estate which will be disposed of by Will (if a Will is in place). If there is no Will, then it will follow the rules of intestacy.

You can find out more about rules of intestacy and the importance of putting a Will in place by reading our blog, What are the Rules of Intestacy?

Why Should I Sever the Tenancy on the Property?

There may be many reasons to sever the joint tenancy and hold a property as tenants in common. An example would be if you held a property with your ex-spouse or partner and you have divorced (awaiting a sale) or there is a breakdown in the relationship then you may want to consider severing the joint tenancy so that you each own a distinct legal share of the property so that if you were to pass away it wouldn’t automatically pass to your ex-spouse or partner. You can therefore instead leave your share of the property to your chosen beneficiaries by Will. Another reason couples may sever their tenancy is if they have children to previous marriages. It is not uncommon for spouses to leave their half share of the property to their respective children on death.

Separating Couple

How do I Sever Tenancy on a Property?

You can sever the tenancy by a Notice of Severance. If all parties are in agreement, then they can all sign a Mutual Notice of Severance and if the property is registered, a SEV form is then completed and registered with the Land Registry so the title can be updated to reflect the severance.

If your property is unregistered, then your deeds can be endorsed with the severance although not many properties are unregistered nowadays so if your property is still unregistered it might be worth considering a first registration with the Land Registry.

You can find out more about Unregistered Land here and why it is beneficial to register your property with the Land Registry.

Can the Tenancy be Severed Without the Other Co-owners’ Consent?

Yes, not all parties have to be in agreement. The tenancy can be severed by way of a Unilateral Notice of Severance signed by the person who wishes to sever the tenancy. This is then served on the other co-owners.

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