Co-ownership is where a property is owned by two or more people simultaneously.
When buying a property with another person, you should decide whether you wish to own it as joint tenants or tenants in common, as this will dictate your respective shares and rights in the property.
What is a Joint Tenancy?
A Joint Tenancy is where the owners are equally entitled to the whole - meaning they have equal rights to the property with the ‘right of survivorship’ occurring immediately on death. Since they own the property equally, under a joint tenancy the split is always 50:50.
The right of survivorship occurs on death of one of the owners, and their interest in the property automatically gets transferred to the remaining surviving owners.
Therefore, under a Joint Tenancy the interest in the property cannot be left by a will, nor will such interests be passed under intestacy rules.
For a Joint Tenancy, there are four criteria (known as the ‘unities’) which must be present (AG Securities v Vaughan  1 A.C 417):
- All co-owners must have the same right to possession.
- All co-owners should have the same interest.
- The interest in the property must be vested at the same time.
- All co-owners must have the same title over the asset.
For a Joint Tenancy, there cannot be more than 4 co-owners of the property. (s32(2) Law of Property Act 1925). If there are to be more than 4 co-owners, then it will be necessary to create a trust to reflect the owners of the Property.
Given the right of survivorship and the nature of the unities set out above, it is common for the family home to be owned by way of a joint tenancy.
What is Tenancy in Common?
A Tenancy in Common allows owners to have different amounts of interest in the property and different rights, which is able to be decided by the co-owners themselves. Say, for example, one party is contributing 75% of the purchase price of the property and another contributes the remaining 25%, it is possible to set out that the Property is actually owned 75:25.
It is possible to do this upon registration of the title or it can be done at a later date in certain instances.
For a Tenancy in Common, there is no right of survivorship, so upon death of one of the co-owners, their share will pass according to their will or intestacy rules may apply.
This type of co-ownership is only capable of existing in equity – so the owners of the property will all be named on the title to the Property (subject to the maximum of 4, as above) but the percentage of their ownership will be reflected in the equitable interest of the Property
The only unity which must exist for this type of co-ownership is the unity of possession.
Given the above, it is more common for business partners to be own property as Tenants in Common.
If you are concerned about co-ownership or believe it is something you may be affected by, contact our Property Law Experts who can advise on Property matters such as Joint Tenancies and Tenancies in Common.
Please contact us to talk through options and discuss your next steps with us in confidence.