In every conveyancing matter where there are two or more buyers, we are required to ask the question “will you be joint tenants or tenants in common?” Commonly, when we poise this question the response is usually a short silence followed by “what’s the difference?”

Regardless of whether the buyers are a married couple, family members, or friends, it is very important to ensure that the type of ownership agreement you have in place is the right one. If everyone understands the type of ownership applicable to them and its effects, this may help to prevent any problems down the track if one of the owners wants to relinquish their share, or the unforeseeable happens and an owner/s passes away.

Time to break down the differences:


Joint Tenancy is appropriate where there are two buyers purchasing a property who will own the property in equal shares i.e.. 50/50. The effect of joint tenancy ownership is that on the death of an owner, the deceased parties’ share in the property passes to the surviving owner despite any provisions in your Will. This is the most common form of tenancy for married couples.


Tenants in Common is appropriate where there are two or more buyers. Here you can stipulate who holds what share of the property i.e. two buyers can hold the property 50/50, 60/40 ,70/30 etc., or four buyers could hold the property 25% each.

The effect of tenants in common in terms of survivorship, is that on the death of a co-owner, the deceased’s share in the property will pass in accordance with their Will, or in accordance with the laws of intestacy if they do not have a Will.

It is possible for Joint Tenants to sever their joint tenancy at a later date to become Tenants in Common, although you should bear in mind that any change of ownership proportions will usually result in stamp duty being payable.