Legal 101

What does it mean to have a joint tenancy? 

Catherine Boxall
·
October 7, 2021

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Your obligations under a joint tenancy. 

Understanding the arrangements under your tenancy agreement can be complicated. However, understanding the nature of your tenancy agreements is important, particularly when one tenant decides to move out of the property, because it will determine where obligations lie. This article will outline the key features of a joint tenancy agreement and highlight the obligations that arise from it. 


What is a Joint tenancy?

Joint tenancies arise when a tenancy is granted to more than one individual and each individual holds the whole tenancy, not just their respective share of it. Individuals in a joint tenancy, as they have ‘ownership’ of the complete property, are each liable as though they are the only tenancy. 

 

What are the four unities?

A joint tenancy arises where the so-called ‘four unities’ are present: unity of time, interest, possession and title (AG Securities v Vaughan [1990] 1 AC 417). Tenants will have unity of title if each of the tenants derive their interests in the property from the same title, for example deed or will. They will have unity of interest where under the tenancy agreement, the tenants have the same type and quantum of interest in the property. To have unity of possession, the tenants under the agreement must be entitled to possession of the entire property, not just various portions of it, for example bedroom 1. For unity of time, each tenant must have their interests in the property granted to them at the same time.


One of the first checks to see whether there is a joint tenancy is to refer to the tenancy agreement. If the tenants are all named in the agreement, signing a single agreement then this goes someway in suggesting they have a joint tenancy. 


Joint tenancy- joint obligations? 

As mentioned above, when there is a joint tenancy, as each tenant holds the whole tenancy, they are jointly and severally liable. This means that if any of the tenants cause damage to the property or are in rent arrears, the other tenants are also responsible for this cost. 


What happens when a joint tenant moves out?

This issue comes up frequently when one of the joint tenants moves out before the end of the fixed term. Where this is the case in a joint tenancy, the other tenants are responsible for covering that individual’s rent. If a tenant wants to use a break clause within their agreement, they must get the consent of all other tenants to exercise it to end the tenancy unless otherwise stated. However, if the fixed term of the tenancy has ended, a tenant can give notice to leave without agreement of any of the other tenants. However, if a tenant does this, the tenancy ends for all individuals. Under a joint tenancy, each tenant has the right to remain in the property, regardless of the views of the other tenants- they cannot be forced out. 


As shown, the rights and obligations of tenants under a joint tenancy are quite unique. It is important both the landlord and the tenants understand the nature of their agreement to know where their respective obligations lie.


To learn more about your tenancies, download our Assured Shorthold Tenancy whitepaper


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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.


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