The Law Dictionary

Your Free Online Legal Dictionary • Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed.

Difference Between Joint Tenancy and Tenancy in Common

Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are two most common classifications of ownership of a property. The difference between these two is important when owning a house or a piece of real estate. This is due to the fact that more and more people are interested in purchasing real estate. These purchases are often done by spouses, who are legally married, or by friends who decide to buy and share a house together. During these purchases, the parties must be able to determine how they are going to take the title to their newly purchased house. This is important since it will determine their rights toward the home, whether they are still together, if they have moved to another house or if one of the parties already transferred residence.

What is Joint Tenancy?

Basically, joint tenancy pertains to homeownership in which each party is on the home title and has an equal interest in the property. An example of a joint tenancy is the ownership over a house by a married couple. In this situation, each of the spouses has an equal share and interest over the house. In the case of divorce, each spouse may sell his or her share in the property. Once there is a sale, the joint tenancy becomes tenancy in common.

What is Tenancy In Common?

Tenancy in common, on the other hand, refers to ownership over a certain property by two individuals without any right of survivorship. They are co-owners of the property and their shares and interest over said property are equal. However, there are also situations in tenancy in common when the parties do not have equal shares. The sharing scheme shall depend entirely on the stipulation of the parties.

Joint tenancy and tenancy in common have different rules concerning the death of one of the tenants. This is the main difference between these two kinds of tenancy. In tenancy in common, the death of one of the parties shall have the effect of transferring the rights of the decedent tenant in favor of his heirs. In joint tenancy, the parties enjoy the right of survivorship. This means that when one of the co-owners dies, the survivor co-owner shall get the decedent’s share over the property. In joint tenancy, each co-owner’s possession, interest, time, and, title of the property is vital. In order for the transfer of rights to accrue, there must be a will of a deed executed in favor of the survivor. If you are looking to learn more about property law, check out our guide on Property Law.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Recent Real Estate & Property Law Articles