Conveyancing - differences between joint tenancy and tenants in common

Oct 17, 2023

When purchasing property, the choice between joint tenancy and tenants in common profoundly influences how ownership is structured. These two types of ownership have distinct rules regarding property division and succession. While both provide co-owners with ownership rights and a share of the property, the key difference lies in the rules governing the death of one of the tenants.

In joint tenancy, co-owners, which can include more than two individuals, collectively own the entire property. They do not specify percentages; instead, each owner holds 100% jointly with the other. Married couples often opt for joint tenancy due to its “right of survivorship.” This means that upon the death of one joint tenant, the deceased’s share automatically passes to the surviving tenant(s) and does not become part of the deceased’s estate. One of the primary advantages of joint tenancy is the automatic right of survivorship. This simplifies the transfer of ownership upon the death of a co-owner, often making it less complex and less expensive compared to tenants in common.

In contrast, tenants in common own specific shares of the property, and these shares can be equal or unequal. Parties who are not automatically entitled to a right of survivorship, such as friends or siblings, usually choose tenancy in common. Upon the death of a tenant in common, their share becomes part of their estate and is distributed according to their Will or the laws of intestacy. Tenants in common offer flexibility in ownership percentages, allowing unequal shares based on individual financial contributions.