Joint Property Ownership Explained: Joint Tenancy Versus Tenancy In Common

Law Blog

Two (or more) people may choose to invest in the same piece of property for various reasons. In a large number of cases, the main reason behind this decision is that the upfront cost of property ownership is often reduced by a significant percentage when more than one investor is involved.

Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are the two types of property ownership available for multiple investors eyeing the same property. This article explains three differences between a joint tenancy and a tenancy in common for the benefit of prospective property investors, helping them understand some of the conveyancing needs they might encounter.


The PTTI is an abbreviation for a number of elements referred to as 'unities' in real estate circles. The four unities provide a guide on the conditions that have to be met for a joint tenancy.

The unity of possession dictates that joint tenants have an equal right to possess the entire property. The unity of title dictates that joint tenants cannot have separate documents (e.g. title deeds) as proof that they own the property. The unity of time provides that the term of a joint tenancy begins and ends on the same day and at the same time for every joint tenant, while the unity of interest stipulates that joint tenants should have equal and non-competing interests in the property.

In contrast, tenants in common will only need to meet the condition spelt out by the unity of possession.

Contribution Towards Property-Related Expenses

In a joint tenancy, the amount contributed by each joint tenant towards the cost of buying the property or towards the cost of maintenance is not used to determine who owns what. Each joint tenant is considered to own the property in its entirety regardless of the amount of their contribution.

Under a tenancy in common, each tenant has a right to possess the entire property; however, each tenant owns a percentage of the property which often reflects their contribution towards the various expenses associated with property ownership.

The Right Of Survivorship

Joint tenancies have a concept referred to as the right of survivorship. The right of survivorship stipulates that upon the death of one party in a joint tenancy, ownership of the property in question is automatically transferred to the surviving party. Tenancies in common lack this concept. Upon the demise of one 'common tenant', the right of ownership to his or her portion of the property is transferred to a legal heir named in the deceased person's will (or similar document).


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