If you own a property with someone else, it is important to know the exact details of the title under which you own it as this can affect your capacity to deal with the property.
The two most common types of ownership of land and buildings, in Ireland, are joint tenancies and tenancies- in- common.
Where a property is owned by two or more persons as joint tenants then that means that each of the co-owners have an equal right to possession of the entire property. Accordingly, one person cannot sell, mortgage or otherwise deal with the property without the consent of the other co-owner. Also, with this type of ownership, if one of the joint tenants dies, the property automatically becomes the property of the other joint tenant(s). For example, if John and Mary own a house as joint tenants and if John dies, the property automatically passes to Mary, irrespective of whether John has made a will or not. It is a common mistake for a person to think that the property will be left to whoever they state in their Will or under the rules of intestacy, if they die without making a Will, but this is not in fact the case where property is owned by that person as a joint tenant. In this example therefore if John made a will and in it he left the house to his son, Michael, this would not happen as Mary will own the house automatically as the other joint tenant. Michael will therefore not get the house even though his father, John, has made a Will to this effect.
With a tenancy- in- common type ownership, on the other hand, all co-owners have a right to possession of the entire property, although they may not have equal shares. For example, one person may be entitled to two thirds of the property while the other person owns the remaining one third. Both parties may also own the property in equal shares i.e1/2 share each. Where property is owned in a tenancy- in- common situation, a co-owners share will pass under the terms of their Will or under the rules of intestacy.
In our example therefore if John and Mary own the house as tenants in common with John owning a 2/3rd share and Mary owning a 1/3rd share and John makes a will leaving his share of the house to his son, Michael, then Michael would inherit his father’s 2/3rd share and Mary would continue to own her 1/3rd share.
It is clear from the above that the law, with regard to joint property, is not always straight forward and it is therefore important to be mindful of this if you are the joint owner of property with another person.