Property may be owned by an individual tenant or with co-tenants. Tenancy in common is one type of ownership arrangement which involves co-tenancy. Tenancy in common has some unique attributes, including equal right to possession. To determine how property is owned, look at the language of the deed which may specifically state that the co-owners own the property as tenants in common. If the deed does not contain language dictating the type of relationship, tenancy in common is the default form of ownership.
In a tenancy in common ownership, neither owner may exclude the other from the right of possession to the property. While all co-owners may enter and use the property, they may not exclude the other from doing the same as they all own the undivided property. Furthermore, ownership of a larger interest in the property does not give the majority owner the right to exclude the other owners.
Owners who use the tenancy in common ownership structure don't have to be related, nor do they need to have any sort of business relationship or mutual connection. This differs from other ownership structures that require the owners to be married. Also, there's no limit on the number of people who may be considered a tenant in common for any particular piece of property. For a tenancy in common to be created, at least two people must participate, but many more may be involved.
A tenancy in common is different from a joint tenancy for many reasons. One of the key aspects of a joint tenancy not present in a tenancy in common is the right of survivorship. In a joint tenancy, when one owner dies, the entire property passes to the other owner. While the tenancy in common does not have the right of survivorship feature, it does share the element of right of possession with the joint tenancy.
One co-owner may sell his percentage interest in the property and permission to do so is not required of the other owners. A court order is another way in which a tenancy in common may be dissolved. If the owners cannot agree on how to dissolve the property, they may go to the judicial system and seek a court order. At the order of the court, the property may either be physically divided or sold to enable the proceeds to be divided among the owners.
- The Iowa State Bar Association: What is Joint Tenancy?
- Ohio Legal Services: Tenancy In Common
- The Chicago Bar Association: Joint Tenancy
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Ryan Stearns has contributed to various online legal publications. He received his J.D. from New York Law School and his B.A. in political science from SUNY College at Buffalo.