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Joint Tenancy Versus Tenants in Common

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

When a property is legally owned by one person, it is called a sole ownership or a sole proprietorship. Conversely, when a property is legally owned by two or more persons it is called a co-ownership or a co-proprietorship.

There are two ways in which a co-ownership may be held by the registered proprietors, namely as either joint tenants or tenants in common.

Tenants in common

A tenancy in common is when all registered proprietors of a property have a defined percentage interest in the property.

For example:

Alex and Beatrice decides to buy a property together. Alex contributes 70% of the total purchase price and Beatrice pay for the remaining 30%. By agreement, Alex holds 70% of the property and Beatrice holds 30%.

The benefit of having a tenancy in common is that an individual registered proprietor will be able to leave their share of the property to their own beneficiaries, of their choosing, under their own will.

Joint tenancy

By contrast, a joint tenancy (also known as joint proprietors) is where a property is held by two or more persons jointly and severally. This means that each individual owner does not own any specific share of the property, rather, altogether, they own the entirety of the property.

The biggest practical difference between tenancy in common and joint tenancy is that joint tenancy is governed by the rule of survivorship. Upon the death of one joint tenant, their share of the property will automatically pass to the other surviving joint tenant(s). This means that individual owners will not be able to leave the property for someone else under their will.

It does, however, allow the deceased proprietor to pass their ownership in the property to their co-proprietor without the need for probate, which can be costly and time consuming.

For example:

Alex and Beatrice decides to buy a property together. By agreement, they register their ownership as joint tenants. After the purchase of the property, Alex passes away. Beatrice then becomes the sole proprietor of the property by virtue of the rule of survivorship, without the need for probate.

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