Differences Between Joint Tenants vs Tenants in Common


The process of purchasing real estate is tricky; things can get even more complicated if you’re buying a property with someone else! The key is to pick the right type of ownership.

This article will look at joint tenancy vs tenants in common. We’ll explain their differences, similarities, and what each of them entails. Let’s get started!

What Is Joint Tenancy?

When it comes to property ownership, most people think in binary terms: It’s either yours or someone else’s. Real estate moguls say this is far from the truth, however. Real estate ownership can take many forms and is specifically defined by the rights of the owner.

Joint tenancy is the most popular option; it includes two or more people who want to purchase a property. It doesn’t matter what the relationship is between the joint tenants; investment partners, friends, business associates, family members, and married and unmarried couples can enter a joint tenancy agreement.

According to the joint tenancy definition, this type of ownership agreement is a legal ownership arrangement in which two or more people own a property with equal rights and responsibilities.

DID YOU KNOW? If you’re in a joint tenancy agreement and looking to rent the property, it might be a good idea to consider a tenant screening service. You can use it to check an applicant’s eviction, rental, and income history.

How Does Joint Tenancy Work?

To form a joint tenancy, two or more parties need to enter a legally binding agreement through a deed; parties can hire a real estate attorney to draw up an agreement. An attorney can ensure that all legal requirements in the state where the property is located and all conditions for joint tenancy are met.

By joint tenancy definition, all parties have to agree to a joint tenancy at the time of the signing.

All owners receive equal shares of the property. If there are two owners, each gets 50% of the property; they share equal benefits, as well as finances and any other responsibilities. If one of them rents property or sells it, all parties get their share of the profit. This also means that all owners are liable if someone takes out a loan, and are equally responsible for covering estate tax, mortgage payments, and maintenance. If one of the owners fails to pay, the others have to assume responsibility.

Pros & Cons of Joint Tenancy

When it comes to choosing between being a tenant in common vs a joint tenant, there’s no simple easy answer. Here are some good points about becoming a joint tenant:

Avoid probate

The biggest advantage of joint tenancy is that it creates a right of survivorship, or the ability to avoid probate, which is a lengthy legal process where a court reviews how legitimate a will is.

Right to survivorship

With joint tenancy agreements, if one co-owner dies, the co-owners of real property get their shares automatically.

The right to survivorship defines what is joint tenancy as its unique feature. On the other hand, though, it’s its bigger drawback because survivors have no legal obligation to honor any wishes.

Shared responsibility

Another advantage of a joint agreement is that co-owners of the property split all costs, making ownership more affordable. Everyone is equally liable for all payments.

Selling the property requires both parties

Joint tenancy can get complicated if one owner wants to sell. Since assets are owned together, everyone needs consent from their partners.

What Is Tenancy in Common?

Like joint tenancy, tenancy in common is a legal agreement where two people share ownership rights to a property. Unlike joint tenancy, co-owners of the property can control different percentages.

This means that the owners can split the property in any way and still have equitable ownership interests and privileges. For example, one tenant can own 70% of the property and the other 30%; this creates leeway for selling, borrowing, or obtaining a portion of the property.

DID YOU KNOW? It’s recommended for a tenant in common properties to draw up a deed of trust to ensure transparency. This deed is not required by law but is a smart choice if you’re in a tenancy agreement.

Tenancy in Common Pros & Cons

Tenancy in common sounds like a sweet deal if you’re more independent, but there are still tenancy in common disadvantages you should be aware of.

A great deal of freedom

Like joint tenancy, the biggest advantage of tenancy in common is also its downfall. Tenancy in common gives owners complete control over their portion of the property, meaning they can sell it or designate beneficiaries, but the rest could get stuck with a co-owner they don’t agree with. What’s more, this new co-owner can file a partition action and force other co-owners to sell or divide the property!

Mortgaging can get tricky

When it comes to mortgaging tenant in common properties, all members are required to sign each document. This means that if one co-owner defaults, the lender can seize control of all shares, including those that made payments on time. In other words, they are jointly responsible for all costs.

No time limit or degree of ownership

A perk is that tenancy in common agreements allows others to easily join the real estate market. Anyone can enter a tenancy in a common agreement at any time and there is a possibility of different degrees of ownership, but no right of survivorship. If someone dies, the property will go through probate.

Joint Tenancy vs Tenants in Common

As mentioned, joint tenancy and tenancy in common are similar: they both refer to legal agreements in which two or more parties own property together. If you’re not sure which is the right choice for you, the best approach is to consider their main differences.

The most distinct feature of tenancy in common is that it gives co-tenants more freedom when it comes to handling the property. A holders’ interest is separately transferable and each owns an undivided share. This gives people the ability to sell a property without needing approval from the rest of the owners, and designate beneficiaries to their share in case of death.

Joint tenancy is the opposite: the biggest tenants in common vs joint tenancy difference is that joint owners cannot do what they please with their share of the property independently. If they want to sell their interest, they have to ask the others involved because that would lead to an end of the agreement. Why? One of the requirements of a joint tenancy is that both parties obtain the property simultaneously. If one wants to sell their portion of the shared ownership, they need to end the agreement; the other owner who wants to keep their interest in land has to make a new agreement with whoever takes over.

Remember, this is not the case with tenants in common, as the tenancy in common definition dictates that owners can change at any time.

Another distinction is that joint tenants share an equal amount of interest that depends on the number of tenants involved. If there are two owners, the property is divided 50/50. However, tenants in common are not bound by an equal share; they can own a different percentage of interest and can come into ownership whenever.

If there is a death, tenants in common get the shorter end of the stick. A joint tenancy comes with the right to survivorship; the living tenant automatically assumes full ownership of the property and can skip probate.

The main joint tenancy vs tenancy in common difference is that tenants in common don’t have that option. If one of the tenants dies, their share won’t be accessible until the court reviews the deceased’s will. They will act under the Intestates Estates and Property Charges Act laws that deal with inheritances. The inherited title of land or property will also allow the beneficiary to file a Transmission Application. The main issue with probate is that it’s a lengthy process and can sometimes take months, even years.

Should a Married Couple Be Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common?

The debate over joint tenant vs tenant in common for married couples comes down to personal preference. Both agreements significantly cut down the cost of purchasing property and allow both parties to share ownership.

The majority of married couples opt to be joint tenants as this type of ownership agreement lets them share equal interests and responsibilities. They also get to automatically inherit their partner’s share if one of them dies.

This choice is far from easy, though. The best way to decide is to talk to your partner and go over joint tenancy vs tenants in common pros and cons together before making a final decision.

DID YOU KNOW? Divorcing couples are generally advised to sever the joint tenancy so they can leave their shares to designated beneficiaries of their choice. However, if one of them dies before the matters are resolved, their share might end up in the hands of the co-owner.

Can You Convert a Joint Tenancy to a Tenancy in Common?

There isn’t a formal process for transitioning from a joint tenancy to a tenancy in a common agreement. One reason why is that the main difference between joint tenancy and tenancy in common essentially prohibits joint tenants from changing ownership or exiting the agreement without terminating it.

There are two ways to convert from joint tenancy to a tenancy in common, both of which involve ending the joint tenancy agreement.

The first is for one party to sign a quitclaim deed. The difference between joint tenancy and tenancy in common agreements is that they function in separate ways, so a person that wants to exit the deal needs to transfer their interest in the property to themselves; the fastest way to do that is a quitclaim deed.

The second option is to get a title company to conduct a deed transfer in which each owner transfers their interest in the property to themselves to create tenants in a common ownership structure. The deed needs to be filed with the county the property is in and has to be signed by all tenants.


Purchasing a property is one of the most important decisions you can make. Getting the type of ownership agreement correct is crucial if you’re planning on buying with another person.

Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are the two most common classifications of property ownership; the right decision depends on a variety of factors and personal preferences. Good luck!


What is a common element of joint tenancy and tenancy in common?

Both a tenancy in common and joint tenancy are legal agreements where two or more people share ownership of a property. This doesn’t mean they own specific areas of the house but instead own a home entirety together.

How to create a joint tenancy?

Laws vary from state to state, but a joint tenancy typically has four conditions that need to be met. The co-owners of the property must acquire the property at the same time, must share the same interest, have the same title, and have the right to possess the entire property. If you fail to meet any of these conditions, your ownership will be treated as tenancy in common.

How is a tenancy in common created?

A tenancy in common can be created at any time. The purchaser can sign a tenancy in common agreement when they initially buy the property and transfer their share to new tenants via a deed or a will or sell their part.

When does a joint tenancy become a tenancy in common?

The main joint tenancy vs tenants in common difference is that a tenancy in common can change the number of owners, as well as ownership percentage, at any time. A joint tenancy ceases if one owner sells their interest to another person; this is what makes it a tenancy in common.


Alex is an IT wizz gone SEO gone fire-juggler. We’re not even joking. When he isn’t researching why one personal loan is better than the other and which piece of hardware you should buy next, he’s rollerblading or selling homes (because he does that, too, the smarty-pants).

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