If you a thinking about moving into the property market, it is important to understand what type of ownership agreement you are entering into. If you are thinking of contributing towards a property it is important to know whether you want to be a joint tenant or a tenant in common with the other parties to the agreement.

Whether an individual is a joint tenant or a tenant in common will often depend on the relationship between the parties to the agreement and the way parties own their interests in the property. If you need legal guidance it will be best to contact a lawyer first. LawPath has an extensive lawyer marketplace which can provide you with fixed-price quotes regarding any of your legal needs.

What is Joint Tenancy?

Simply put, joint tenancy is where the parties to an agreement for the purchase of property individually hold an undivided equal share of the property. Where both parties purchase the property together, there is no specified percentage as to who owns what. A joint tenant does not have the right to transfer or sell their interest in the property. In order to remove their interest, they must apply to have the joint tenancy severed which will transfer that interest to the other joint tenant.

Furthermore, it should be noted that there can be more than two joint tenants to the agreement although it is most common to see joint tenancy in the form of a marriage partnership.

What are Tenants in Common?

On the other hand, purchasing as tenants in common provides each individual to the transaction with a certain percentage of ownership to the property. This percentage may be an equal amount but can be split depending on the circumstances. Because of this ownership style, each party that owns a share of the property has the right to sell or transfer their interest in the property to a third party. Commonly this is used when purchasing a property with an unassociated other party.

A common example would be where two or more friends decide to go into an agreement to purchase a property whilst each holds a different percentage of monetary input.

What is the Difference?

Essentially, the difference lies in what is known as ‘survivorship’. Depending on the approach taken, different parties will get the interest of a party that dies. Under a joint tenancy, because the ownership structure cannot be split and there are restrictions to transfer the interest, the death of one party will leave their interest with the other existing parties. This is compared to a tenancy in common, as parties own individual portions of the property this will become part of their inheritance upon death and will therefore pass on under their estate.

Depending on the type of tenancy, different documentation is required for the transfer of an interest to a third party. These can be found through the NSW Government Land and Property Information website and then must be lodged through the Torrens Title Registra.


If you are planning on purchasing a property with another person, be it a partner or friend, it is crucial to understand where you want your interest to go to in the case of your death. Besides this, it is important to understand the type of ownership that you hold under the transaction and the rights to that interest you hold.

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Adam Lewis

Adam is a Legal Intern at LawPath working with the content team. With an interest in consumer and commercial law he is currently completing a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in International Business as well as a Bachelor of Laws at Macquarie University.