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Understanding the difference between Joint Tenancy and Tenants in Common

May 9, 2023

It is important to understand the difference between these two routes when purchasing a property with other people.

Tenants in Common  

This route allows each person to hold their own share of the property. You can decide how to divide these shares. For example, if one person has contributed 70% to the mortgage and the other 30%, this can be reflected in the share split of the property. Or, if one person wishes to contribute more heavily towards the mortgage re-payments, the shares can be split to reflect this. Up to four adults can be registered owners.

If a tenant in common dies, any share amount will be passed to those named in the will. If they do not have a will, intestacy laws will apply. This differs to joint tenancy which is explained further below.

Keep in mind that there may be a few extra forms to fill out if you wish to purchase a property as tenants in common. For example, a deed of trust will be required to list the financial interest of all of the parties in particular events. The events cover what would happen if the property is sold or a co-owner buys the shares from another co-owner. This type of document is important to protect each owner and provide clarity.

When is this route useful:

  • If you are a parent who wants to help your child buy their first home but also want your payment towards the home to be reflected in the shares held.
  • If you are a group of friends who want to buy a home together.
  • Business partners buying a house together as an investment property

Joint Tenancy

Joint tenants have equal rights to the property regardless of what they have contributed. The maximum number of joint tenants is four. Importantly, the people in the joint tenancy are viewed as one legal entity. This means the mortgage will be in equal parts and decisions must be made jointly.

It is important to remember that even if one party has contributed a significant amount more than the other, if they choose to sell the property, they will each receive an equal share.

A key point is that if one of the joint tenants die, their interest in the property is passed automatically to the surviving owner/owners. You cannot pass this interest on in your will so it is important that joint tenancy is only entered into with someone you are happy to bestow the interest to.

When is this useful:

  • Partners in serious relationships or spouses.

Changing from one tenancy type to another

A common reason to change a tenancy type is divorce. A joint tenancy can be severed and amended to tenants in common. Essentially this means each owner can leave their share of the property to whoever they wish and unlike in a joint tenancy, it will not be passed to the ex-partner. 

Some married couples choose to become tenants in common for asset protection purposes. Holding a home as tenants in common and entering into a life interest trust can protect against care costs and remarriage. This area can be complex and it is always best to discuss this with a solicitor. 

Which is best?

This all depends on what your goals are in relation to the property purchase. In general, joint tenancy is more common amongst couples in serious relationships and tenants in common is more often used with a group of friends, business partners etc. However, this is dependent on the individual needs of each situation. If you are unsure about which route to take, it can be useful to talk to a solicitor who can advise you further. If you are considering purchasing a property with others, it is crucial to understand the differences between joint tenancy and tenants in common. Talk to Wallace Robinson & Morgan Solicitors to get professional advice and guidance on which option is best suited for your needs at

Charlotte Peplow
Trainee Solicitor – Commercial Department

This article is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute technical, financial, legal advice or any other type of professional advice and is no substitute for specific advice based on your individual circumstances. We do not accept responsibility or liability for any actions taken based on the information in this article. For more information, please click here.