Joint Tenancy Definition

Joint tenancy, also known as Joint Tenants, is a type of ownership of land; the other being tenants in common. As a joint tenant you have an undivided share of the property and can own the property with up to 4 joint tenants (you cannot have more than 4 joint tenants registered at the Land Registry). 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%. We explain this in more detail below.

Legal Definition for Joint Tenants of Land

Law of Property Act 1925, Section 34 - Effect of future dispositions to tenants in common, states "(1) An undivided share in land shall not be capable of being created except as provided by the Settled Land Act, 1925, or as hereinafter mentioned."

(2)Where, after the commencement of this Act, land is expressed to be conveyed to any persons in undivided shares and those persons are of full age, the conveyance shall (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act) operate as if the land had been expressed to be conveyed to the grantees, or, if there are more than four grantees, to the four first named in the conveyance, as joint tenants in trust for the persons interested in the land:

Provided that, where the conveyance is made by way of mortgage the land shall vest in the grantees or such four of them as aforesaid for a term of years absolute (as provided by this Act) as joint tenants subject to cesser on redemption in like manner as if the mortgage money had belonged to them on a joint account, but without prejudice to the beneficial interests in the mortgage money and interest.

As the land cannot be divided, the joint owners can't state an uneven beneficial ownership. For example, 2 joint tenants cannot state that either owns a share in property that isn't 100% jointly, so any income is shared 50/50 between them. Click here to read more on how to share property in unequal shares.

Different types of joint tenants

Married Couples

It is very common for married couples to own their main residential home as joint tenants to cater for if either party should pass away, the property would remain with the surviving joint tenant.

If the property isn't the married couple's main residence and is a buy to let/investment asset, the married couple may choose to hold the property as tenants in common and not joint tenants. The reason for this is so that they can share property income in divided/unequal shares to offer a more tax efficient use of each of their individual tax positions. Here are two useful articles:


A family may choose to own their main residential home as joint tenants to allow the property to pass to the surviving joint tenants should one of the joint tenants die.

Joint Tenancy vs Tenants in Common - Pros & Cons

As we've touched upon above, there are pros and cons to holding the beneficial title as joint tenants or tenants in common so we have written a detailed article on What are the Pros and Cons of Joint Tenants vs Tenants in Common?

FAQS about buying as joint tenants

Joint tenants or tenants in common how to find out

If you do not know if you purchased the property as joint tenants of tenants in common then you can download your title deeds from the Land Registry by clicking here. If you purchased as tenants in common it will have a Form A restriction which states:

"No disposition by a sole proprietor of the registered estate (except a trust corporation) under which capital money arises is to be registered unless authorised by an order of the court."

I've been going out with my partner for 3 years, should we buy as joint tenants or tenants in common?

The decision of how you hold the property is chosen by you and the joint owner. With this said, you would normally not buy the property as joint tenants until you are married or are in a longer term relationship. The reason for this is that until you get married, the laws in England and Wales offer very little (if any) protection and as such you should protect both of your individual interests and reflect these separately to each using a deed of trust and buying as tenants in common. You can read more about what a deed of trust can protect by clicking here.

Do you need a Deed of Trust?

It is helpful to have a Deed of Trust if your relationship breakdown, however you must first change the title ownership from Joint Tenants to Tenants in Common. We can help with:

  • Changing title ownership from Joint Tenants to Tenants in Common
  • Drafting deed of trust for sharing property income
  • Dispute resolution for agreeing income on sale or transfer

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With a joint tenancy, what rights to a property do both parties have?

You hold equal rights to the whole of a property you share ownership of as joint tenants. The shares in the property are 50/50, i.e. equal and cannot be otherwise.

When a property is sold as joint tenants, what happens?

When joint tenants both agree to sell a property, they divide the proceeds of the sale entirely equally. If a joint tenant passes their claim on a property to a new owner, the new owner has a tenancy in common and the joint tenancy is broken.

If one of the joint tenants dies, what happens?

If you die as a joint tenant, the property automatically and entirely passes to the other joint tenant. In legal terms, this is called 'right of survivorship'. The surviving joint tenant becomes the sole owner.

If I die, can I pass on my ownership to anyone other than the other joint tenant?

No because you don't own a separate share of the property. If you want to do this then you need to buy as tenants in common and then state in your will who you'd like your share of the property to go to.

Can one joint tenant keep their share of a property safe from receivers in the event of the other joint tenant going bankrupt?

No. As joint tenants you are jointly and severally liable for each other's debts. This means that receivers can claim assets right up to and including the entire property's value.

I am a joint tenant. Can I become a tenant in common?

Yes you can. The process is called Severing the Joint Tenancy and you can do this by completing a SEV form. Read our article on Change from Joint Tenants to Tenants in Common

Want to know more, including how you can protect your individual property rights as tenants in common? Call 0333 344 3234 Local call charges apply) or email us at

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