Resolution’s Awareness Week Purchasing a property together – joint tenants or tenants in common?

25 Nov 2019

Resolution’s members are family lawyers and other professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes.

The annual Awareness Raising Week this year focuses on cohabitation. In the spirit of promoting this theme, the Trethowans family team have written a series of short articles to assist couples either contemplating cohabitation or perhaps facing the breakdown of their relationship.

If you wish to purchase a property jointly, have an equal deposit and plan on making equal contributions to outgoings and the mortgage then you would need to consider whether you would like to own the property as joint tenants or tenants in common.

  • Joint Tenants

This means that you each own the entire property (subject to mortgage) equally. Should either of you die, the survivor becomes entitled to the entire property, irrespective of the contents of any Will.

  • Tenants in Common

This means that you each own a specific share in the property (subject to mortgage), which could be in equal or unequal shares. Should either of you die, then the deceased’s share will pass in accordance with their Will. For this reason, it is extremely important that you make a Will leaving your share to whosoever you choose. In the absence of a Will, the Intestacy Rules apply.
Most couples that live together and who plan to purchase a property with equal contributions would likely opt to purchase their property as joint tenants, so that in the event of one person’s death their share of the property would pass automatically to the other.

If the relationship subsequently broke down, it is possible to change from owning your home as joint tenants to owning as tenants in common by serving a Notice that you wish to sever the joint tenancy. This Notice takes effect as soon as it is received by the other person. If you do sever the joint tenancy it is extremely important that you obtain advice about the execution of a Will. You should be aware that severing the tenancy is a double edged sword in as much as it would not be beneficial for you to do this if the other person passed away after the tenancy had been severed, as their share would pass in accordance with their Will and not to you automatically. The decision to severe a tenancy therefore needs to be considered carefully.

What about if you have different deposits or need to divide the mortgage in unequal shares? Have a look at tomorrow’s article to find out more.



Amy Trench