What is a joint tenancy?

This is the type of property ownership where two or more persons share the rights of a property. Involved persons own or rent a property together and share equal rights and obligations until one of the co-owners die. Upon the death of one of the joint tenants, the survivors will receive that person’s interest in the property without going through probate.

Joint tenants have equal and undivided rights to keep or dispose of a property. If all co-owners mutually agree to sell a property, the sales proceeds will be divided equally among them. It is common for the courts to intervene in the disposition of the property as this is often accompanied by disputes.

Tenants usually have joint ownership of a land in the form or deed or will but it can also apply to money or other items.

There are four main features that differentiate joint tenancy from other types of ownership.

  1. The property as a whole is equally shared among co-owners with undivided interest. No tenant will have a larger share over the others.
  2. The property is vested for exactly the same period or over a tenant’s lifetime. It is fixed and cannot be altered by any condition.
  3. The property is held by the co-owners under the same title.
  4. All joint tenants enjoy equal rights until one of the them dies, at which time the rights of the dead owner is automatically transferred to the remaining co-owners under the right of survivorship. The entire estate will automatically transfer to the sole surviving tenant.
  5. Joint tenants share duties and rights by default under the common law.

    • Because each co-owner shares equal rights, a cause of action for ouster can be taken if one of the joint tenants exclude another.
    • If the property generates an income, each owner has a right to an accounting of profits and is entitled to a pro-rata share of whatever income earned.
    • Each co-owner must contribute to the cost of owning a property and will be forced to make payments if needed. Some of the expenses shared among joint tenants are the cost of maintenance and repairs, property taxes, and mortgage for the entire property.

     

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