Severing a Joint Tenancy

Severing a joint tenancy is the process by which you convert a joint tenancy into a tenancy in common.

How do I know if I am a joint tenant?

You will need to check on your Title Document. If you have a mortgage then this will be held by your mortgage company. The Proprietorship Register will show the names of the people that own the property and, if you are tenants in common will also have the wording "No disposition by a sole proprietor of the registered estate (except a trust corporation) under which capital money arises is to be registered unless authorised by an order of the court". If there is no such wording in the Title Document then you are almost certainly joint tenants.

So what's the difference and why do I need to sever anything?

If you own your property as joint tenants then each of you jointly own the entire property (technically it is held by you in trust for yourselves!). The consequence of this is that upon the death of one party their interest in the property passes automatically to the survivor. It is therefore usual for married couples to buy a property as joint tenants.

However if they then split up it is unlikely that they would wish their other half to automatically take their "share" in the property if they were to die. They should therefore usually sever the joint tenancy and become tenants in common, until such time as the property is sold or transferred fully from one party to the other.

If you hold a property as tenants in common, this means that each owner has a distinct share in the property. If there are two owners this will automatically be half each.

Alternatively you can decide between yourselves what share of the property belongs to each owner. The important point is that each of the tenants in common always owns their share of the property, and they are only entitled to that percentage of the sale proceeds, if sold during their lifetime. If they die then their share of the property forms part of their estate. It does not automatically pass to the other owner.

Severing a joint tenancy?

If you are looking to sever a joint tenancy, you could benefit from some bespoke legal advice - the sort offered by our telephone legal advice service, Instant Law Line. In 5 minutes' time, you could be getting advice for severing your joint tenancy.

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