What is Joint Ownership?

There are two types of joint ownership of land/property in the UK.  They are:-

Which you choose is entirely up to you.  Here, we walk you through the basics of the different types of joint ownership, and by understanding the principles of joint ownership of land in the UK, you can hopefully decide whether you want to be tenants in common or joint tenants.

What is a Joint Tenancy?

With a joint tenancy, the owners own the whole of the land together, jointly, and in equal shares.  The phrase ‘joint tenancy’ refers to the legal ownership, and the phrase ‘joint tenant’ refers to the owners themselves.

Under a joint tenancy, if one of the joint owners die, their share will pass automatically to the surviving owner(s).  This is a legal principle known as the ‘right of survivorship’.

What is the Right of Survivorship?

The right of survivorship applies to joint tenants when one (or more) of them die.  When this happens, the deceased owners share passes automatically to the surviving joint tenants.  A right of survivorship will override anything else – eg a will that purports to gift the share of the house.

The right of survivorship applies to most cash assets that are owned jointly too – for example bank accounts.  In those circumstances, probate is not normally needed as the asset simply passes to the surviving owner the moment the joint owner dies.

What is a Tenancy in Common?

Under a tenancy in common, the owners will hold distinct shares of their own of the property (rather than equal shares of the whole).  Tenants in common CAN hold equal shares, but unlike a joint tenancy they can also own in unequal shares.

How do I know if I have a Joint Tenancy or Tenancy in Common?

The ‘title’ to your house held at the Land Registry (HMLR) will show which type of ownership you have.  Unfortunately, it is not as simple as there just being a note saying either Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common!

Instead, within a section known as the ‘Proprietorship Register’ the type of joint ownership is defined by either:-

  • No restriction – and so it is a joint tenancy; or
  • A restriction – meaning it is a tenancy in common

What is a Tenants in Common Restriction?

This is what defines that the joint ownership is a tenancy in common.  It is rather wordy and starts with ‘no disposition by a sole proprietor….’.   If this ‘restriction’ appears in the Proprietorship Register of the title to your house at HMLR, then you are tenants in common.  If there is no such restriction, you are deemed to be joint tenants.

How do I change from Joint Tenants to Tenants in Common?

You change from joint tenants to tenants in common by adding the tenants in common restriction to the Proprietorship Register at HMLR.  You can do this yourself, or you may find it better to have the help of a conveyancing solicitor to do it for you.  This is known as ‘severing the joint tenancy’.

How do I change from Tenants in Common to Joint Tenants?

You change from tenants in common to joint tenants by removing the tenants in common restriction from the HMLR records.

What are the benefits of owning as Joint Tenants?

The main and obvious benefit of owning as joint tenants is the security of knowing that your share will pass to the joint owner(s) automatically on death, come what may.

What are the benefits of owning as Tenants in Common?

The main benefits of owning as tenants in common are:-

  • Unequal shares – you can hold unequal shares
  • Gift away – you can pass your share to someone other than the other joint owners (by will)
  • Estate planning – you may wish to consider estate planning (eg placing your share in trust)

How do we show percentage shares of a Tenancy in Common?

You should have a suitably worded declaration of joint ownership showing who owns what shares.  This should be signed by all owners.

Joint Ownership – do I need a Will?

Yes!  We should all have a will come what may.  And, even if you own as joint tenants (which pass outside of the terms of your will) you should nevertheless have a valid will in place to deal with things like:-

Does a Tenancy in Common save Inheritance Tax?

There is a common myth that owning as tenants in common saves you Inheritance Tax.  It does not!  All it does is allow you to deal with your share of a property and gift it to whom you chose – unlike a joint tenancy where it passes by survivorship to the remaining joint owners.

If you want to undertake tax planning with your share in a property, you need to do more than simply own as tenants in common!

As a general rule of thumb, utilising the family home for tax planning is something to think very carefully about!  The security of the surviving owner knowing that their home is safe, and there’s to do with as they please is something that no amount of tax planning perhaps outweighs?

Joint Ownership FAQs

Joint ownership is simply where more than one person has a legal interest in property or land in the UK. Significantly, that joint ownership can take (in its simplest form) one of two types – joint tenants or tenants in common.

Joint ownership of property and land in the UK can be either as joint tenants or tenants in common. 

A joint tenancy is where the joint owners (known as joint tenants) own the whole piece of land together and jointly and in equal shares (dependant upon however many of them there are).  If any one of the owners dies, their share passes automatically by law in equal proportions to the surviving owner(s).  This legal process is called ‘the right of survivorship’ and it overrides all other legal entities including a will. 

A tenancy in common is where the joint owners (known as tenants in common) of property or land in the UK own distinct separate shares.  Those shares can be of any proportion as defined by the owners.  If one of the owners dies, their share will pass via their will (unlike with a tenancy in common). 

The main difference between tenants in common and joint tenants is that joint tenants will always be equal shares, and those shares pass automatically on the death of any one or more of the owners to the survivors.  That happens irrespective of the terms of any will.  That principle is called ‘the right of survivorship’. 

The right of survivorship is the legal principle whereby property and land under a joint tenancy passes automatically to the surviving joint owners on the death of any one of them.  This overrides for example the terms of a will that may even purport to gift the land to someone other than the remaining joint owners.  This is unlike a tenancy in common whereby the distinct separate shares pass via a will or intestacy. 

Because ‘the right of survivorship’ does not apply to tenants in common, you MUST make a will to ensure your share in the property or land goes to the person intended on your death.  If you fail to make a will, the rules of intestacy will apply.  These are the legal rules that decide who gets what on our death if we die without a will (intestate).  In short, that list is a hierarchy of relatives starting with our spouse, then children, and so on. 

A tenant in common is the person or persons who own the land. A tenancy in common is the legal principle by which that land is held (as opposed to the person(s) concerned). 

A joint tenant is the person, whereas a joint tenancy is the legal principle of joint ownership itself. 

No!  Misleading as the phrase may be, a joint tenancy is about the legal ownership of land – not renting property! 

No!  A tenancy in common is a type of joint legal ownership of land in the UK and nothing to do with renting houses! 

Which you choose will probably be decided by who you want to get your share of the property in question when you die.  So, for example, if you are married or own jointly with your partner you may well plump for a joint tenancy as this will ensure that your surviving spouse/partner gets the house come what may.  NB you should always still make a will to deal with any other assets! 

This is the part of the Land Registry records that show you own as tenants in common.  It appears as what is known as a ‘restriction’ in the ‘Proprietorship Register’ The law being the law, the restriction does not even mention the words tenants in common!  If there is no restriction, it is assumed that the joint ownership is a joint tenancy. 

No is the simple answer!  All a tenancy in common does is define that the joint owners hold the property or land separately in shares defined by them.  The more (brief) complex answer is that holding as tenants in common does allow you to then undertake care home fees planning by potentially gifting (for example) a share of the matrimonial home into a trust on the first death of a married couple.  This is a hugely complex area and you should take independent legal advice should you wish to explore this topic. 

No is the simple answer.  All that a tenancy in common does is define how the joint owners own the house or land – ie in separate shares, the size of which they will have defined.  However, the brief further answer is that if you do own as tenants in common then you can, for example, gift a share of land on the first death of a couple to someone other than the survivor.  Whilst a grossly oversimplified example of the reality of tax planning, this points to a broad topic under which inheritance tax savings can sometimes be made.  Tax planning is an extremely complex area, and the gifting a property is in any event a significant step.  You should therefore seek independent legal advice should you be contemplating this course of action. 

If you own a property jointly with someone other than your children but wish to leave it to them, you must ensure that you own the property with your joint owner as tenants in common. 

Yes. If you currently hold as joint tenants but for some reason wish to change that joint ownership to a tenancy in common then this is a relatively simple process for your solicitor to deal with for you. 

Yes.  If you currently jointly own a property as tenants in common then you can change this to a tenancy in common by placing a ‘restriction’ at the Land Registry.  This is a simple process that your conveyancing solicitor can deal with for you. 

First time buyers should apply the same rules when thinking about which type of joint ownership they want to have.  If they want their share to pass automatically to their other joint owner(s) then a joint tenancy is likely to be for them.  If they want to gift their share to someone other than their joint owner, then a tenancy in common is likely to be the right choice.  If in any doubt which type of joint ownership is right for you, discuss your options with your conveyancing solicitor. 

Yes, you can leave jointly owned land into a trust in the UK. If you wish to do so on your death, then you must ensure that that property or land is held as tenants in common.  If you hold as joint tenants, it will automatically pass to the surviving owners on your death and this will override the terms of any will purporting to place it in trust. 

5 STAR Solicitor reviews!

Check out other solicitors’ websites and they’ll be littered with self-adulation – they’re “leading solicitor” this, and “solicitors doing” that. Rather than toot our own horn we’d rather you be the judge of how good our solicitors are. Trustpilot is a totally independent review site where our clients are free to leave whatever thoughts they feel best describe the legal service they received from us. It’s raw. It’s honest. It’s for real. And critically, it’s from you!

Trustpilot logo







Exchange of


on Title


First Time



Why Us?

Online Solicitor


We’ve redefined ‘local solicitor’

Video meetings


From the comfort of your own home

24/7 access


Access to your case files anytime

Eco credentials


View our eco credentials

Clear costs


View our fees

Our history


See our evolution


Whether a ‘solicitor near to me’ is your thing, or you are using an online solicitor, you want to be able to talk to your solicitor – how and when you want! Whichever of our expert solicitors you need to talk to, we’ve made it as easy as we can to be available to you.  So whether you need to speak to your conveyancing solicitor, or your divorce solicitor, your employment law solicitor, or your wills and probate solicitor – get in touch with QLAW today!