What is a Joint Tenancy?

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A joint tenancy is where joint owners hold the whole of a property in the UK in equal shares.

There are two types of joint ownership of property and land in the UK – a joint tenancy, and a tenancy in common.

What is a joint tenancy?

A joint tenancy is a type of joint ownership of property or land in the UK whereby all joint owners own the property or land as a whole in equal shares. The fact that the ownership relates to the property or land as a whole is the key – and is contrary to them owning distinct separate shares (as is the case with a tenancy in common.

How can I tell if I own as joint tenants?

This is an odd one! As you might imagine, its not a simple answer! The Land Registry records include something called a Proprietorship Register. If you own as tenants in common (NOT joint tenants) there is something called a tenant in common ‘restriction’ noted in this Proprietorship Register. If you are joint tenants, there is no such restriction.

So, to put it simply, you know you are joint tenants because there is no tenancy in common restriction in the Land Registry records. Or, put another way – ask your conveyancing solicitor to check it for you!

What happens when a joint tenant dies?

On the death of one of the owners, their share passes automatically to the surviving joint owner(s) and irrespective of whether there is a will that purports to gift the share elsewhere.

This legal principle is known as the ‘right of survivorship’ and it overrides both wills, and the rules of intestacy (where someone dies without a will).

How do I change joint ownership on death of one joint tenant?

This is where a joint tenancy perhaps comes into its own. Because of the right of survivorship, the share of any joint tenancy owners passes automatically on death to the remaining owners – irrespective of the terms of a will. So, Probate is not needed as it does not pass via the will. All that is needed is to serve certain notices on the Land Registry along with an original copy of the death certificate.

What is the difference between a joint tenant and a joint tenancy?

A joint tenant is the person or person who own the property under this legal principle. The joint tenancy is the legal principle itself (not the person – that being the tenant!).

Can I gift my share as a joint tenant in my will?

No! The right of survivorship applies to the joint shares of joint tenants and even if you try to leave your share by will that gift will fail.

Will a joint tenant’s share pass by intestacy?

No! The shares of joint tenants will always pass automatically on death by the legal principle known as the right of survivorship which overrides wills and the rules of intestacy.

Joint tenancy – what is the right of survivorship?

This is the legal principle whereby on the death of a joint tenant, their share passes automatically to the surviving joint owner(s). It overrides the terms of any will that purports to gift the property elsewhere. It also overrides the rules of intestacy (the law that defines who gets your estate if you die without making a will).

Do I need Probate on the death of a joint tenancy owner?

No, probate is not needed on the death of a joint tenant to transfer the property to the surviving owner(s).

Is a joint tenancy subject to Inheritance Tax?

Yes, despite not passing via the terms of a will, the value of a joint tenants share of property will be assessed (and potentially liable) for inheritance tax.

Can I own as joint tenants in unequal shares?

A joint tenancy will assume equal shares of all owners – irrespective of the contribution to the purchase of the property in question.

Joint tenancy will always be equal shares.

What happens if a joint tenant wants to sell?

Tricky! In a practical sense, the sale must happen, and that means either selling on the open market or the remaining joint owner(s) buying the share out. If agreement can not be reached by the joint owners then a court order can be obtained to force the sale.

What are the benefits of owning as joint tenants?

The main benefit of owning as joint tenants is (a) that probate is not needed on death of one or more owner as their share passes automatically by the legal principle known as the ‘right of survivorship’. This cuts down on time and paperwork. And (b), the shares of joint owners will always pass to the surviving owners on the death of others.

Who should choose a joint tenancy in common?

You should choose a joint tenancy over a tenancy in common if you want to be sure that the surviving owners will receive you share on your own death.

Why should I NOT choose a joint tenancy?

You should NOT choose a joint tenancy if you wish to own in unequal shares. You should also not choose a joint tenancy if you wish to gift your share of the property on your own death to someone other than the surviving owner(s). That might include for example a gift into a property trust (as opposed to a gift just to persons directly).

Is a joint tenancy anything to do with renting property?

No! A joint tenancy is the legal principle that defines the type of joint ownership you hold property or land. It is nothing to do with renting property (contrary to what the name might suggest)!

Do you have a question about joint tenancy?

I you have any questions around joint ownership – whether joint tenants or tenants in common, do reach out to our expert team of conveyancing solicitors. You can email us at or call us on 03300 020 365.

Watch our video on Joint Ownership

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