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Joint Tenants in Common

Sonia Nair Feb 28, 2019
Though both are types of concurrent ownership of property, a joint tenants in common is different from a joint tenancy. Given here is a brief overview about this legal concept.
The ownership of a property by two or more individuals, jointly and simultaneously, is termed a concurrent estate or co-tenancy. Such persons, who own the same property jointly are called joint tenants, co-tenants, or co-owners. There are different ways to own a property by more than one person at a time.
Joint ownership of property can be either through means of 'joint tenancy' (joint tenancy with right to survivorship) or through 'joint tenants in common' (tenants in common). Some states recognize other forms like 'tenancy in the entirety' and 'community property', if the joint tenants are husband and wife.
It is the type of ownership of a concurrent estate, that determines the right of the concerned parties, regarding the property. Rights, like sale of individual share in the property, or creation of will with regard to his/her interest in the property, etc., depend on the type of ownership in the co-tenancy.
As the various types of ownership differ in the rights and liabilities of the co-tenants; the conditions, that have to be met with, for creating such ownership also varies.

What is Joint Tenants in Common?

It is one of the ways of holding a property jointly. It is often confused with joint tenancy or joint tenancy with right to survivorship. Joint tenants in common is defined as a type of concurrent estate, where the co-owners or co-tenants are entitled to separate and distinct shares.
There are many terms and conditions in this concurrent estate and the right of the parties are determined as per these conditions.

✦ A tenants in common can be created through law, a will, or a deed. The property must have minimum two joint owners (related or unrelated), but in some cases, the maximum number of co-owners can be above 100.
✦ The co-owners may hold equal or unequal shares in the property. Sometimes, the shares in a concurrent estate are expressed in percentages.

✦ In case of joint tenants in common, all co-tenants are allowed to enjoy the property equally, and no one can exclude another from that right.
✦ Even though, each co-tenant has a distinct share in the property, the property remains undivided; and the co-owners, who are entitled to possess and enjoy the property equally, cannot claim ownership to a particular portion of the property, till the joint tenants in common lasts.
✦ There is no right of survivorship in this type of concurrent estate. In other words, a co-tenant's interest in property does not transfer to the surviving co-tenants, in case of former's death. Upon the death of a co-tenant, his/her interest in property will be part of his/her estate, and is transferred to the heirs, or devisees (through will).
✦ If there is no restriction as per the agreement between the co-tenants, a co-tenant can also sell or mortgage his interest in the property.

Dissolving Joint Tenants in Common

A tenancy in common can be dissolved in different ways. One of the co-tenants can buy the whole property by paying the others. The property can be divided between the co-tenants, according to their individual shares. If the division is not allowed by the law of the region; then, the property can be sold, and the proceeds can be divided accordingly.
If the co-tenants fail to make a decision regarding partition of the property, any of them can file a partition action. The court may either decide to divide the property, and assign the co-tenants with their respective shares; or order the sale of the property, so that the proceeds can be divided between the co-tenants.
In general, each co-tenant has a right to partition of the concurrent estate. However, in some cases, the co-tenants may add a clause, regarding the waiver of that right for a stipulated period, or under some specific conditions.
The laws may slightly vary from one state to another, though the basic concept remains the same. So, it will be always better to have a proper idea about the state laws regarding concurrent estate, before creating one. You may also consult an attorney, for proper guidance.