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Forms of ownership

This content applies to England & Wales

The main forms of ownership for owner-occupied property.

Sole or joint owner

If a purchaser is buying a home on her/his own, then only her/his name will appear on the title deeds and mortgage deed. If more than one person is buying a home jointly, then there are two types of ownership to choose from. It is part of the solicitor's job to advise on types of ownership.

Joint tenants

The term 'tenant' in this context does not mean the same as in other forms of tenancy; it means someone with a legal interest in the property. They hold the property equally, with none of them having a distinct share. If one tenant dies, her/his interest passes automatically to the other joint tenant(s) by right of survivorship, regardless of whether the terms of a will state otherwise. This form of joint ownership is the form used most often by established couples.

Severance of a joint tenancy

A joint tenancy can be converted into a tenancy in common (see below) in a number of ways,[1] in order to avoid the effect of survivorship. This could be, for example, as a result of the ownership of the property having been set up in unequal shares, or where a charging order has been made against the beneficial interest of one of the joint tenants. For information on charging orders, see the page Order for sale. This is particularly relevant in cases of relationship breakdown and separating couples should be referred to a specialist adviser for determination of their respective beneficial interests (ie shares). The relevant law is complex and constantly evolving.[2]

Tenants in common

Tenants in common hold distinct shares in a property, which do not have to be equal. They can leave their share in their will to anyone they choose, and if they die without leaving a will, the share passes under the intestacy rules. This form of ownership is the most common way for groups of friends to buy property together and may be more appropriate for unestablished couples living together.

[1] s.36(2) Law of Property Act 1925, as amended by para 4(3) of Sch. 2 to the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.

[2] See Jones v Kernott [2011] UKSC 53; Quigley v Masterson [2011] EWHC 2529 (Ch); Stack v Dowden [2007] UKHL 17; Goodman v Gallant [1985] EWCA Civ 15.

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