Question Bianca Law

What is the difference between a joint tenant and a tenancy in common?

What are the differences between a joint tenant and a tenancy in common in co-ownership?

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Answer Internal Staff

Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are two forms of ownership of land. There are three key distinctions of a joint tenancy.

Firstly, the four unities must be fulfilled in order for a joint tenancy to exist. Secondly, joint tenants own the property as a whole concurrently and their shares are unspecified. There can only be four joint tenants on the legal title but additional tenants can own the property as joint tenants in equity. Thirdly, a joint tenancy has a right of survivorship. This means that in their death, the interest of the joint tenant does not pass into their estate but rather to the other surviving joint tenants. Normal succession laws would apply upon the death of the last joint tenant.

In contrast, a tenancy in common only requires the unity of possession to exist. The owners own the property in ‘undivided shares’ meaning the tenants have equal rights to the property but there is no physical divide between the tenants. However, each tenant owns a specified (equal/unequal) share of the property. Finally, in the event of death, a tenant in common does not have a right of survivorship. Thus, ownership would need to be passed using a will.