What does tenants in common mean?

Tenants in common

We answer frequently-asked questions about tenants in common, joint tenancy and why property owners might choose these types of agreement.

What does tenants in common mean in the UK?

Tenants in common are co-owners of a property where each person own a specific share of that property. This is typically two people who own an equal 50% share each. However, up to four people can own a property as tenants in common, and shares do not have to split equally.

What is the advantage of being tenants in common?

Owning a property as tenants in common allows each person with a share to control what happens to their share. It also allows couples who are not married or in a civil partnership to pass on their property to their children in two halves – therefore using both partners’ inheritance tax allowance. Below are two examples to show how this might be useful.

Example 1.
A married couple each have children from previous marriages. By owning their home as tenants in common they can each make sure their share of the property is inherited by those children, as long as this is written into their Will.

Example 2.
An elderly couple own their home as tenants in common. When one becomes ill and needs full time care in a care home, they will be means tested (a calculation of how much they can afford to pay) based only on their share of the property. This could save money on the amount of care fees they need to pay.

Is tenants in common a good idea?

Tenants in common is a good idea for couples or co-owners who want to make sure that their share of a property is handled the way they wish. This gives owners full control over their share of the property and allows for their share to be directly inherited by the beneficiaries in their Will.

Is tenants in common the same as joint tenancy?

Tenants in common is different to joint tenancy. When a property is co-owned by two or more people in a joint tenancy agreement, if one of the co-owners dies, their share is immediately passed on to the surviving owner(s) without any court proceedings being needed.

Which is best – joint tenancy or tenants in common?

The main difference between a joint tenancy and a tenancy in common agreement is the way each co-owner’s share is handled. Tenancy in common gives each co-owner full control over their share of the property. On the other hand, joint tenancy is a simple way to ensure that, in the event of a co-owners’ death, the property is immediately fully owned by the surviving co-owner(s)

How many tenants in common can own a property together?

At least two and no more than four people can own a property as tenants in common. The same applies for a joint tenancy. More than four people co-owning a property would need to own using the device of a trust. Any number of people can be named as beneficiaries of a trust.

How does tenants in common reduce inheritance tax?

Co-owners of a property who are not married or in a civil partnership can still reduce inheritance tax by using a tenants in common agreement. They do this by passing on only their share of the property, which will be liable for less tax than the full value of the property.

Can a tenant in common force a sale?

Yes, a tenant in common can force a sale even if the other owners do not wish to sell. The co-owner wishing to force the sale would need to apply to a court for an ‘order for sale’.

Can a joint tenant force a sale?

Joint tenants cannot force other co-owners to sell unless they first apply to sever the joint tenancy. Then they would be able to apply to a court for an ‘order for sale’.

Can tenants in common sell their share UK?

Ideally, a tenants in common agreement will include terms that cover situations such as one co-owner wishing to sell. If there is no written agreement on this, co-owners can offer to buy the share of the individual wishing to sell. If you cannot agree on this, the co-owner wishing to sell will have to apply to a court for an ‘order for sale’, forcing the sale of the entire property.

Does Land Registry show tenants in common?

Yes, Land Registry does show whether you are tenants in common or joint tenants. This information is found in your Title Register Document – also held by your mortgage company if you have a mortgage.

If you are joint tenants, your Title Register Document will contain the following, or similar, phrase:

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.

If this is not present, you are likely to own the property as joint tenants.

Who holds the Declaration of Trust?

The name of a trustee must be included in the declaration of trust. The declaration of trust should also detail the powers that trustee holds in relation to the trust.

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Jan Moys
written by

Jan Moys

A copywriter and content specialist with over 13 years’ experience across arc... Read all

A copywriter and content specialist w... Read all