What's the Difference Between Joint Tenancy & Tenants in Common?

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Purchasing a house can be among the most rewarding and exciting times in your lifetime. Pride of ownership, privacy and tax benefits are a few of the greatest facets of owning a house. Yet when two or more people opt to purchase a house together, they must decide on the best way best to take title to the house. The manner in which a married couple, a relationship couple or friends take title to a house can greatly affect their faith now and in the future.

Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy is a type of homeownership where everyone on the title has an interest. For example, if a husband and wife are on title to the house as joint tenants, then they both own equal and undivided shares of the house. In accordance with Realty Times, one or more of these joint tenants may ruin the joint property by promoting his ownership position in the home to another party, resulting in a type of possession known as tenants in common.

Tenants in Common

Tenants in common is a more informal way of taking title where each owner possesses a specific percentage of the house. If there are two owners around the title, each could own 50 percent of the property, or one tenant in common could own a greater percentage than the other. Realty Times states that if no kind of ownership is defined when a house is bought, courts in the United States often assume that the goal was to function as tenants in common.


Married couples should pay additional attention to the way they take title when buying a house, because not every manner gets the right of survivorship. The right of survivorship means that if one owner dies, the other owner automatically owns the property without it having to go to probate. In accordance with Realty Times, just joint tenancy has the right of survivorship. When a tenant in common dies, her entire estate, including the house where she owned a part, must be broken according to the principles of the probate court.


According to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, so as to become joint tenants, two or more people have to take title to the house at the exact same time, on the exact same document. This can be referred to as unity of time and openness of title. Tenants in common will take title at different times and on different documents.


There are significant financial effects to be conscious of about joint tenancy, regardless of the benefits. The Missouri Bar states that in a joint tenant situation, if one of the joint tenants owes money, creditors can actually attach the attention of the one debtor to the house and force a foreclosure, even if the other joint tenant had nothing to do with debt.

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