Severance of a Joint Tenancy Guide

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When it comes to property ownership, grasping the differences between holding a property as joint tenants and tenants in common is essential. Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are two distinct legal arrangements that dictate how multiple individuals can share ownership of a property.

The expert team at DLS Solicitors explains the concept of joint tenancy, delves into the implications of severance, and elucidates the alternative arrangement known as tenants in common.

Joint Tenancy: An Introduction

When individuals choose to buy a property together, they frequently choose joint tenancy. In this setup, all co-owners (joint tenants) collectively own the entire property. A key characteristic of joint tenancy is the right of survivorship, whereby if one co-owner dies, their share automatically passes to the surviving joint tenants. This smooth transfer ensures that the property remains undivided.

Severance of Joint Tenancy

Although joint tenancy offers simplicity and convenience, there are situations where co-owners may desire to sever this arrangement. Severance takes place when joint tenants opt to convert their joint tenancy into a tenancy in common. This process divides the ownership of the property into distinct shares, extinguishing the right of survivorship.

Ways to Sever A Joint Tenancy

Severing joint tenancy, which converts joint ownership into a tenancy in common, can be accomplished through several methods:

  • Notice of Severance: One common method involves serving a formal notice of severance to the other joint tenants. This notice communicates the intention to sever the joint tenancy and convert it into a tenancy in common. The notice must be properly served according to legal requirements.
  • Express Declaration: Joint tenants can execute a written agreement or declaration expressly stating their intention to sever the joint tenancy and convert it into a tenancy in common. This document should be signed by all joint tenants to be legally effective.
  • Mutual Agreement: All joint tenants can mutually agree to sever the joint tenancy and convert it into a tenancy in common. This agreement should be clear and documented to avoid any future disputes.
  • Operation of Law: In some jurisdictions, certain actions or events can automatically sever a joint tenancy and convert it into a tenancy in common. For example, if one joint tenant transfers their interest to a third party, this act can sever the joint tenancy.
  • Court Order: In certain circumstances, a court order may be necessary to sever a joint tenancy, especially if there are disputes or disagreements among the joint tenants.

It’s essential to consult with legal professionals specialising in property law to understand the specific requirements and implications of severing joint tenancy in your jurisdiction. Each method of severance may have different legal requirements and consequences that should be carefully considered before proceeding.

The Implications of Severance

After severing joint tenancies, the co-owners transition into tenants in common. Each owner now possesses a distinct and identifiable share of the property, which may be equal or unequal among them. Crucially, the right of survivorship is extinguished, indicating that upon the death of a co-owner, their share will not automatically transfer to the surviving co-owners.

Tenants in Common: An Alternative Arrangement

In a tenancy in common, each co-owner possesses a distinct and individual share of the property. This setup offers greater flexibility in terms of ownership percentages and enables each owner to transfer or bequeath their share independently. Unlike joint tenancy, there is no right of survivorship in a tenancy in common. Therefore, upon the death of a co-owner, their share becomes part of their estate and is distributed according to their will or the rules of intestacy.


Understanding the implications of property ownership as joint tenants and the process of severance is crucial for individuals involved in co-ownership. Whether choosing joint tenancy or tenants in common, careful consideration and legal advice are essential to ensure that the selected arrangement aligns with the co-owners’ intentions and objectives.

Severance offers individuals an opportunity to customise their property ownership to better align with their needs and preferences, providing flexibility within a typically structured legal framework. Contact our Joint Severance Solicitors at DLS Solicitors today at 01625 460281 to discuss your specific needs and requirements regarding joint tenancy issues.

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DLS Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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