What is ‘tenants in common’? What happens if one of them dies? Explained

There are several ways to own a property, and there are systems that enable several owners to hold title to a single property instead of just one, such as ‘tenants in common’ under a tenancy in common (TIC) agreement. However, there are other types of shared ownership structures too like joint tenancy and tenancy by entirety.

But one should not get confused with the term ‘tenant in common’ with Rent Act as these concepts of co-ownership have nothing to do with tenancy.

Therefore, it is essential to understand the distinction between joint owners/tenants and tenants in common when purchasing real estate jointly with another person.

This article will talk about the difference between tenancy in common and joint tenancy, termination of these two, and consequences if one of the tenants in common dies.

Tenancy in common vs joint tenancy 

Tenants in common may have unequal shares and various ownership interests, but no owner may assert ownership over a particular region of the land. For example, tenant A and Tenant B may both own 25 per cent each while Tenant C may hold 50 per cent of the property. Tenancies in common can also be acquired at various dates, meaning that a person may acquire a stake in the property years after one or more other people have already done so.

Conversely, joint tenants must simultaneously acquire equal parts of the property through the same deed. The deed, title, or other legally enforceable property ownership document specifies the conditions of either a joint tenancy or tenancy in common. In certain states, joint tenancy rather than a tenancy in common is the preferred form of ownership for married couples.


If one of the co-owners moves or sells their share to a third party, the joint tenancy can be broken, converting the ownership to a tenancy in common for all parties.

While a tenancy in common might end if one or more co-tenants purchase the other co-tenants or if the property is sold and the revenues are divided among the owners. It may also be terminated if a partition action is brought, allowing an heir to sell their interest. Former tenants in common now have the option, if they so want, to execute a legal instrument creating a joint tenancy.

What happens if one of the tenants in common passes away?

The ownership share of the deceased tenant is passed on to that tenant’s estate and handled in accordance with the deceased tenant’s will. Any surviving tenants continue owning and occupying the property.

Common conflict  

No matter what portion of the property each partner owns, TIC renters have an equal right to utilise the whole thing for all partners. Regardless of ownership stake, maintenance, and care costs are split equally, issues occur when a minority owner overuses the property.

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