Joint Tenants v Tenants in Common

Christine Hadfield, Conveyancing Executive in Astle Paterson’s Residential Conveyancing Department discusses the different ways people can own a property when there are multiple owners.

Chris explained “When you purchase a property jointly with another person your conveyancer will ask you how you wish to the property to be held between you.

From a legal perspective, there are two options – either as ‘joint tenants’ or as ‘tenants in common.’   Whilst the legal terms may appear daunting, it is important – and it can be quite simple – to understand the difference between the two.”

Joint tenants

Chris continued “If you choose the hold the property as joint tenants then each owner will own equal shares in the property.

An important aspect of owning a property as joint tenants is the ‘right of survivorship’ rule which put simply means that should one of the owners die then the surviving owners automatically become the owner of the deceased person’s interest in the property – notwithstanding the contents of any Will which the deceased person may have prepared.

It is therefore usual for married couples to choose the hold a jointly owned property as joint tenants, as opposed to as tenants in common.”

Tenants in common

“This is because if joint owners of a property hold the property as tenants in common, then on the death of one owner, that deceased person’s interest does not automatically transfer to the other owners – rather, the deceased person’s interest in the property in the property forms part of their Estate and can be distributed in accordance with the terms of any Will they have prepared or under Intestacy Rules if there is no Will.

Another important feature of owning a property as tenants in common is that the owners can have unequal shares in the property – they can agree what shares they should respectively have.  It is recommended that a document (known as a Trust Deed) is signed to record the agreement as to the proportions of ownership for prosperity.

Therefore unmarried cohabiting couples and people who have jointly purchased a property as an investment tend to favour owning a property as Tenants in Common” Chris concluded.

When you purchase a property with Astle Paterson we always discuss these matters with you and seek to advise you as to how we believe it will be best for you to hold the property in your personal circumstances.

If you have any questions relating to how to hold a jointly owned property please contact Christine Hadfield of our Residential Conveyancing department on 012873 531366 or by email to

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