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Buying with a Partner: A Guide to Joint Property Ownership

Phi Spencer

By Phil Spencer

It’s assumed that when you buy a property with a partner, you have to own the property 50:50. However, when each party contributes different amounts towards the deposit and the mortgage repayments, you might be keen to seek alternative ways to legally own the property.

You have two options for legal ownership when buying with a partner: joint tenants or tenants in common. To try and help you work out what’s best for you, we give you our guide to joint property ownership.

What is joint tenancy?

Joint tenancy is the most common way for a married couple to own a property in the UK. By owning the property in this way, you both legally own 100% of the property, regardless of the size of your contribution to the deposit payment, or the mortgage repayments.

If one of you were to pass away, the property would pass immediately to the other party. You can’t pass on your share of the property to someone else in your will.

With joint tenancy, both parties are considered a single entity in the eyes of the law. However, you still maintain certain rights. These include:

  • You can’t be forced to leave the property. If your partner wants you out, they must obtain a court order.
  • Neither of you can sell the property, nor take out additional loans against the property, without the consent of the other party.

As joint tenants, you must obtain a joint mortgage to cover the value of the entire property.

Tenants in common

As tenants in common, each party holds a certain percentage of the property. This might be 50:50, 60:40, 90:10 - it’s down to the individual situation. If you don’t specify the percentage, the law automatically deems you to hold it 50:50. Therefore, make sure you clearly state your intentions to your solicitor.

With tenants in common, if the property is ever sold, your percentage of the profits will depend on how much of the property you own.

As tenants in common, you are entitled to leave your share of the property to whomever you wish in your will. It won’t automatically transfer to the other co-owner.

If you want to sell the property, as with joint tenancy, you will still need to get consent from the other owner.

As tenants in common, in theory, you can obtain different mortgages to cover your share of the property. However, this rarely happens, as very few mortgage lenders will agree to this arrangement.

Can you switch between being joint tenants and tenants in common?

You can change between joint tenancy and tenancy in common at any time, for no extra cost. You can even add your spouse to your existing deeds to have them as a joint owner. You just need to inform HM Land Registry.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that either party in a joint tenancy can independently sever the joint tenancy agreement at any point, without notifying the other party or seeking their consent.

In this case, ownership of the property automatically defaults to tenants in common. This means that either party is free to leave their share of the property to whoever they wish.

We understand how tough it can be to decide on the most appropriate joint mortgage to purchase a property! Therefore, we've teamed up with experienced advisers who can help - complete a quote form and they'll be in touch.

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