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

Three Things to Know About Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common is a form of concurrent ownership, like joint tenancy and tenancy in entirety, which places specific rights and responsibilities on co-owners. One of the defining features of tenancy in common is that, unlike other forms of concurrent property ownership, the owners may have an unequal share in the property. While joint tenancy, tenancy in entirety, and tenancy in common often get confused with one another, tenancy in common is actually a very unique type of property co-ownership. Below are just three of the things you should know about tenancy in common.

  1. Each owner has an individual share

As stated above, tenants in common need not have equal shares in the property in question. One co-owner could own a third of the property with the other co-owner owning the remaining two thirds. However, each co-owner’s share of the property is his or her individual and undivided share, meaning that the co-owner, no matter the size of the share, can sell or transfer his or her share of the property. A co-owner does not need the consent of the other co-owners to sell or transfer a piece of property that is held as a tenancy in common. In contrast, in joint tenancy and tenancy by entirety, each co-owner has an equal share in the property and cannot sell or transfer that share without the consent of the other co-owners.

  1. Right to use and occupy the property

Although shares in a property may be unequal, each co-owner nonetheless has the right to use and occupy the property in full. Therefore, although one co-owner may only own a quarter of a property, such a relatively small share does not mean that he or she is confined to using just a quarter of the property. Of course, the co-owners can nonetheless come to their own agreements about how the use of the property will be divided, but such use does not have to reflect the size of the shares in property ownership. In the absence of such an agreement, all co-owners have an equal right to use and occupy the property in full.

  1. No right of survivorship

Tenancy in common is the only form of concurrent property ownership that does not confer a right of survivorship on property owners. What this means is that if one of the co-owners dies, the other co-owners do not automatically inherit the deceased’s share of the property. Rather, the deceased’s share of the property will pass to the deceased’s heirs according either to a will or local estate planning and succession laws. In other concurrent forms of ownership, the joint co-owner, such as, in many cases, a spouse, has a right of survivorship and thus to inherit the co-owner’s share of the property.

Tenancy in common is a useful form of concurrent property ownership for people who want a share of a property without getting bogged down in some of the restrictions associated with joint tenancy or tenancy in entirety. As the above list shows, tenancy in common has a number of advantages and drawbacks that make it unique in the world of concurrent ownership.


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