Joint Property Ownership Disputes Couple Arguing
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Joint Property Ownership Disputes

(Last Updated: 08/12/2023)
4 min read
Disputes can arise between joint owners of property and the most common issues are:

  • I am owed money from the property
  • I want to sell the property

The process of splitting a jointly owned property varies depending on your relationship, your original intentions for the property ownership and how much your contributed toward the property.

Scenario 1: Unmarried Joint Tenants
Joint tenancy disputes are more complicated because when the property was bought, or the owner added someone to the title, then it was agreed between the parties to hold the property as Joint Tenants.

As the property is undivided, meaning the joint tenants own 100% of the property together, then if any of the joint owners dies, the surviving joint tenants continue to own the property 100%.

If there is a dispute then the joint owners need to sever the joint tenancy and state what each of their individual share of the property is and confirm this within a Settlement Agreement to avoid any future claim to the property.

Can I just sever the joint tenancy
When you sever the joint tenancy you need to state what the beneficial interest split is with the property. If you sever without agreeing what this share is then you could be left with a lengthy legal dispute whilst each party stakes their claim.

However, if you were to die your share of the property would remain with the other joint owner until you sever the joint tenancy or until you sever in practice. The latter would need to be proved with the help of a TOLATA dispute solicitor.

Scenario 2: Unmarried Tenants in Common with no written document
Where you state your joint ownership is tenants in common then it means you own a share in a property. This share is stated within the TR1 when you purchased/transferred. You'll have stated it is either shared equally IE 50:50 or there is a deed.

If there is a property dispute then go back to your solicitor and get a copy of the TR1 and see what you stated your ownership structure was.

Scenario 3: Unmarried Tenants in Common with a deed of trust
A deed of trust is a legal agreement signed by the joint owners either at the outset or during their ownership of the property.

The deed should contain clauses confirming the beneficial interest the joint owners have in the property and how they can sell the property in the future. There are other documents which could be used such as a Cohabitation Agreement which covers how you live in the property together or a floating deed of trust that caters for your beneficial interest going up the more you pay towards the property.

Ownership disputes are less common when the the intentions of the owners have been pre-agreed and documented in a deed.

Scenario 4: Married (post marital asset)
Whether you are joint tenants or tenants in common, if you were engaged or married at the time of the purchase then this is a post marital asset that will fall under the divorce settlement/legal separation.

Joint property ownership disputes are always more complex when you are married as you can't quickly sell your interest in the property, or if you did then you'd need to pre-agree the share which should be 50:50 - unless there are other factors such as children. Read more in Can I force the sale of my house in a divorce?

Scenario 5: Married (pre-marital asset)
It will be decided as part of the divorce settlement, however a pre-marital home will often remain with the original owner.

I own 50% of a property what are my rights?

A beneficial owner of a property has the rights to:
  • reside or live in the property
  • 50% of the proceeds of sale
  • 50% of any rental income
  • The right to sell as long as it is the joint decision of the owners or there is an order for sale

Book a FREE 15-minute consultation with a solicitor, to assess your situation. You are under no obligation to use our paid services, following your meeting.

Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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