A Guide to Severance of a Joint Tenancy

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In the realm of property ownership, understanding the nuances between holding a property as joint tenants and tenants in common is crucial. Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are two distinct legal arrangements that govern how multiple individuals can co-own a property.

The specialist team at Swansea Legal Solutions explains the concept of joint tenancy, explores the implications of severance, and sheds light on the alternative arrangement known as tenants in common.

Joint Tenancy: A Primer

When individuals decide to purchase a property together, they often opt for joint tenancy. In this arrangement, all co-owners (joint tenants) collectively own the entire property. One defining feature of joint tenancy is the right of survivorship, meaning that if one co-owner passes away, their share automatically passes to the surviving joint tenants. This seamless transfer ensures that the property remains undivided.

Severance of Joint Tenancy

While joint tenancy offers simplicity and convenience, there are instances when co-owners may wish to sever this arrangement. Severance occurs when joint tenants decide to convert their joint tenancy into a tenancy in common. This process effectively divides the ownership of the property into distinct shares, and the right of survivorship is extinguished.

Ways to Sever Joint Tenancy

  • Express Declaration: Joint tenants can explicitly declare their intention to sever the joint tenancy by signing a deed of severance. This legal document should clearly outline their desire to convert the joint tenancy into a tenancy in common.
  • Mutual Agreement: All joint tenants must be in agreement to sever the joint tenancy. This can be done through mutual consent, either in writing or through a verbal agreement. However, it is advisable to formalize such agreements in writing to avoid any disputes.
  • Unilateral Action: In some cases, a joint tenant may unilaterally sever the joint tenancy by acting in a way that is inconsistent with joint ownership. For example, selling or transferring their share without the consent of the other joint tenants.

Implications of Severance

Once joint tenancy is severed, the co-owners become tenants in common. Each owner now holds a specific, identifiable share of the property, which can be equal or unequal. Importantly, the right of survivorship is extinguished, meaning that upon the death of a co-owner, their share will not automatically pass to the surviving co-owners.

Tenants in Common: An Alternative Arrangement

In a tenancy in common, each co-owner has a distinct and separate share in the property. This arrangement allows for greater flexibility in terms of ownership percentages and the ability to transfer or bequeath shares independently. In the absence of a right of survivorship, the deceased co-owner’s share forms part of their estate and is distributed according to their will or the rules of intestacy.

Understanding the implications of holding a property as joint tenants and the process of severance is essential for individuals involved in co-ownership. Whether opting for joint tenancy or tenants in common, careful consideration and legal advice are crucial to ensure that the chosen arrangement aligns with the co-owners’ intentions and objectives.

Severance provides an avenue for individuals to tailor their property ownership to better suit their needs and preferences, offering a degree of flexibility in an otherwise rigid legal framework. Call us today at Swansea Legal Solutions on 01792 420844 to discuss your specific needs and requirements with regards to joint tenancy matters.