What is Tenants In Common? Definition & Considerations

19/10/2017
(Last Updated: 08/11/2023)
30,601
19 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Two to four owners can hold a property or piece of land as tenants in common
  • They can own equal or unequal percentages of the property
  • They can bequeath their shares using a will, upon their death (as beneficial joint tenants, the property would revert to the other owner(s)
Tenants in Common (TIC) is the legal arrangement for the co-ownership of a property where 2 to 4 parties own separate beneficial shares in a property, or parcel of land. Each legal and/or beneficial owner can hold equal or unequal legal and beneficial shares as tenants in common.

What are your options for joint ownership of a house?

When you jointly own a property in the UK, you can own the property as:
  • tenants in common (we examine this style of ownership in this article); or
  • joint tenants.
It is important to understand and carefully consider the differences as they will affect the property and what happens to it right up until a sale or death.


To find out whether you are joint tenants or tenants in common, contact the solicitor or conveyancer who handled the transaction where you became the owners of the property. If you can no longer reach them, you can contact HM Land Registry to see if they have the information. However, if your joint or co-ownership is dictated by a deed of trust which was never registered at the Land Registry or in a will through which you inherited the property, then they won't have this information.

You can get a copy of your title deed from the Government website. If you have a 'Form A' restriction on the deed, then you may be registered as tenants in common. However, the Land Registry will also apply a form A restriction if you didn't specify a choice when you became the proprietors, among a few other reasons.

If there is no Form A restriction on the register, then you are registered as joint tenants. It is possible to have an unregistered deed of trust which gives you unequal shares, but you'll still be joint tenants until the deed is registered at the Land Registry, severing your joint tenancy. When our clients order a deed of trust making them tenants in common, our fixed fee always includes the registration of the deed and severance of joint tenancy (by application of a restriction) at the Land Registry, so the ownership arrangement is clear and protected, for your peace of mind.

What is tenants in common in UK law?

The tenants in common restriction wording at the Land Registry is as follows:
“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.”

This is a legal restriction preventing one of the owners from making a 'disposition' (including sale, transfer, mortgage etc.) of the property without the other, unless they have a court order allowing them to do so.



What are the advantages and disadvantages of tenants in common?

TIC have the option to hold unequal shares in the property and can split their taxable income according to those shares (of course, they can still be tenants in common in equal shares, if they choose so). They also have the option to execute a floating deed of trust, which will automatically adjust their shares according to a fair formula, when either party spends more or less on the property.

Another major advantage is that they can bequeath their share to a named beneficiary in their will, as opposed to having the joint tenant absorb their share. And, as long you register as Land Registry tenants in common with the proper restriction applied, then you are protected against the other owner disposing of the property without your consent.

Tenancy in common offers more protection against any risk of a future breakdown in the relationship between owners, provided you have a properly drafted will and deed of trust.

For these reasons, tenants in common offer the best advantages to:
  • Unmarried couples
  • Friends/family buying together
  • Anyone who intends to invest varying amounts into the property and would like this to be reflected in their share of ownership
  • Married couples or civil partners who would like to leave their share, in their will, to another beneficiary rather than their spouse

On completion of the conveyancing, your solicitor will register your separate interests at the Land Registry so that, upon sale, this can be used when distributing any proceeds.

How do you change from tenants in common to joint tenants in the UK?

If you own as joint tenants, you can become TIC with a severance of joint tenancy. Make sure you protect yourselves with a deed. Our specialist solicitors can handle both for you, including liaising with the Land Registry. Get in touch for a no-obligation quote.



What are the drawbacks of TIC?

One of the main disadvantages of tenants in common is the potential risk for your shares in the property to be affected during the ownership of the property. Parties may be paying different shares in the mortgage repayments or funding development to the property.

This is why tenants in common should draft a legal agreement before purchasing, to clearly state their intentions with each other and to cover these eventualities. This type of legal agreement is called a Deed of Trust.

Read on for specific advantages and disadvantages of tenants in common regarding:


Are you buying as tenants in common?

Protecting your interests when buying as tenants in common is important, which is why we offer a variety of deeds of trust to suit whatever relationship you have with your joint owner. A basic deed of trust will protect your deposit, fixed shares, and your intentions for the property, including the procedure for sale.

We can draft this document within 24 hours for just £299 Inc VAT. If you want your shares to adjust according to your ongoing contributions, consider a Floating Deed of Trust instead.

Deed of Trust


Deed Drafted within hours
Drafted within 2 hours*
Straight Talking, Friendly Solicitors with SAM Conveyancing
Straight Talking
Helpful Solicitors
Deeds Accepted by HRMC as Evidence of beneficial ownership for Tax Purposes
Accepted by HMRC
For Form 17
Protect Your Interests with a Deed from SAM Conveyancing
Protect Your
Joint Shares

No time for forms and want to call? Call us on 0333 344 3234 (local call charges apply Mon-Fri 9am to 5.30pm)




Tenants in common rights and liabilities

Co-owners have legal rights and protections regarding their share of the property. They each have the right to possession of the whole property as long as it doesn't affect the other owner's rights, the right to be involved in decisions regarding the building's management, and the right to enforce their ownership and rights through legal channels if necessary.

Tenants in common right to occupy

You might think that because TIC own unequal shares, you divvy up the rooms. Despite owning separate and often unequal shares, the tenants still have the right to occupy the whole property.

Some rights and liabilities differ slightly from joint tenancy in several ways:

Tenants in common mortgage liability

Even if you own unequal shares, all tenants are equally liable for taxes and most lenders will only grant you a joint mortgage, making you equally liable for the debt. A deed of trust can set out how you will each contribute to both, but if your tenants in common fail to pay their share, you will be jointly liable to the lender and the tax man. With an appropriate floating deed of trust, if you are forced to cover their shares of these bills, then your share of the equity will be adjusted to reflect this.

Does a mortgage have to be in joint names?

You can technically get a separate mortgage on your share alone if you are able to find a lender who will grant one. The Form A restriction, which you should have applied at the Land Registry, will prevent another owner from registering a mortgage or second charges on the whole property without your consent (or a court order).

What happens with tenants in common when selling house?

You can mutually agree to sell the property, in which case all benefits and costs are divided according to the size of each tenant in common's individual share of the property. Most importantly, you each have the right to apply to force a sale.

Can tenants in common sell their share?

You can also freely and independently sell your own individual share in a property or mortgage it (less common among lenders), or leave it in a will to any person you choose.

Any tenant could, for example, move out of a house, having sold their share and rights to the property to any third party.

Important: As relationships can break down between owners, it is important to ensure you have pre-agreed what happens for tenants in common when one wants to sell their share in the property. For example, by giving the other tenant(s) in common the right of first refusal.

This is a clause that should form part of a written express trust ('deed of trust').


What happens when one of the tenants in common dies?

There are no automatic survivorship rights. If you die without a will, then your beneficial interest in the property passes onto your estate which will be distributed in accordance with intestate laws.

If you share a house with your partner and don't have a will making them sole beneficiary of the property, then your share could pass by intestacy to your closest relative, who may force the sale of the property against your surviving partner's wishes. The same is true if you are married or civil partners and you fail to execute a will naming your chosen beneficiary to inherit your share of the property, then your surviving spouse would inherit your share.

This is one of the largest differences between owning the property as tenants in common and joint tenants because as joint tenants, the deceased's beneficial interest automatically passes to the surviving joint owner. It is especially essential to execute a will when you own property as tenants in common.

Joint Tenancy vs Tenants in Common

Any prospective sharers should also be aware of the distinction between a joint ownership agreement drawn up as a joint tenancy as opposed to tenants in common.

Check out our full comparison of Joint Tenants vs Tenants in Common Pros and Cons, to see which option is best for you. Or give us a call on 0333 344 3234 to find out more from our advisors.

Are you buying as tenants in common?

Protecting your interests when buying as tenants in common is important, which is why we offer a variety of deeds of trust, to suit whatever relationship you have with your joint owner. A basic deed of trust will protect your deposit, fixed shares, and your intentions for the property, including the procedure for sale.

We can draft this document within 24 hours for just £299 Inc VAT. If you want your shares to adjust according to your ongoing contributions, consider a Floating Deed of Trust instead.

Deed of Trust


Deed Drafted within hours
Drafted within 2 hours*
Straight Talking, Friendly Solicitors with SAM Conveyancing
Straight Talking
Helpful Solicitors
Deeds Accepted by HRMC as Evidence of beneficial ownership for Tax Purposes
Accepted by HMRC
For Form 17
Protect Your Interests with a Deed from SAM Conveyancing
Protect Your
Joint Shares

No time for forms and want to call? Call us on 0333 344 3234 (local call charges apply Mon-Fri 9am to 5.30pm)
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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.
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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