TENANCY IN COMMON: Definition & Overview

tenancy in common

There are many forms of house ownership, however, tenancy in common is one of the most rampant. With it, just about anyone can become a house owner without much ado. Mostly popular among unmarried people, tenants in common offer diverse opportunities to individuals. But you would not be conversant with this if you do not understand what a tenancy in common is, its advantages as well as disadvantage. So we desire to give you an overview of what tenancy in common is and the right in its agreement vs joint tenancy survivorship rights in California. Let’s get on board.

What Is Tenancy in Common (TIC)?

The Cambridge dictionary defines TIC as a legal agreement in which two people or groups share ownership of a piece of property, but each person’s share of the property is not passed automatically to the other tenant or tenants in common when they die. More elaborately, it refers to a situation in which two or more people share ownership of a property or piece of land. Whether it is a commercial or residential property, each independent owner has equal ownership rights, sometimes, with different degrees of control over the overall property. In the event of the death of one owner, the property right of ownership falls to the heir of that owner, not the others. 

Let’s make this more practical. Three good friends, Will, Smith, and Harry own a six-bedroom apartment. Will and Smith own 25% of the property while Harry owns the remaining 50%. Even though Harry owns a greater share of the property in question, none among them can lay claim on the house. If Harry dies, his ownership share and rights go on to whoever he wills it to and not to the other owners. 

Rights of Tenancy in Common

The following are the rights that tenants in common have:

Property Income

Property income is one of the rights in TIC. There are times when owners decide to rent their property or estate. In such situations, every owner is will receive income to the degree of ownership.

Right to Transfer Ownership 

Owners also have the right to transfer their ownership rights in a tenancy in common. They can decide to sell, mortgage it, rent it out, or gift it to another.    

Probate Transfer

Owners also have the right to transfer their stake through a trust or will.  

Liabilities in TIC

Tenants in common are additionally liable for the following:


Property expenses are shared among all owners. This responsibility is typically distributed according to ownership shares, with each owner paying a fraction of their stake. As a result, if one person owns 50% of the business, they are responsible for 50% of the expenses.

Law Suits

If a lawsuit is filed against owners because someone was hurt on the property, all of the owners are liable for any judgment entered against them. Regardless of the circumstances or fault of any one owner, each co-owner is responsible for their share of ownership.


If one of the co-owners has a creditor who acquires an interest in the property, such as through a court-ordered sale to pay a debt, the other owners may be obliged to sell. They will be compensated depending on their investment in the property, but there is little they can do to keep the property unless they can buy out the creditor.


Tenants in common may become embroiled in a conflict that they are unable to resolve. The court can divide the property according to own shares in a partition case. It may also lead to an order to sell and split sales proceeding according to the degree of ownership.

Dealing With Disagreements In Tenancy in Common

Co-owners at one point or the other may face disagreements and differences in interest. How can they deal with this? Such situations can be handled with a legal agreement.

With a carefully drafted agreement that defines all of the owners’ rights and obligations, co-owners can try to prevent the potential complications that can occur with a tenancy in common. The agreement can specify what happens if one of the owners wishes to sell their stake, or it can compel the owners to try other dispute resolution methods such as mediation before asking the court to intervene.

Terminating Ownershipship Agreements

Disposing of tenancy ownership will not be difficult if you have an agreement in place. That is why one of the first things you should do before entering a tenancy in common, is to establish a binding agreement. Depending on what your binding agreement says, you can buy off an owner or simply put up the property for sale.

Pros And Cons Of Tenancy in Common

Like other forms of ownership, tenants in common have advantages and disadvantages and these are outlined below;


  • It creates an enabling platform for the average man to become a house owner.
  • The number of persons involved in the project can increase over time. This makes it easier to deal with liabilities.
  • Different people can have different ownership stakes in the property.


  • Debts and property taxes are shared evenly among all tenants.
  • It only takes one of the parties involved to force the property’s sale.
  • When a fellow tenant dies, you do not automatically inherit their property rights. A co-owner cannot lay a claim on the property if an owner dies because there is no right of survivorship in tenants in common.

Tenancy in Common California

Property ownership in California can be held in multiple ways however the most common is tenancy in common and joint tenancy. 

Advantages of the Tenancy in Common California

For a California resident, the tenancy in common has diverse benefits which are as follows;

  • Regardless of their ownership percentage, each owner has the right to the entire property. 
  • With tenancy in common, people in high-cost-of-living areas may be able to own residential property. 
  • The third benefit a California resident enjoys with the tenancy in common is the ability to add new owners over time. With this, they can effectively take care of the h property costs. 

Disadvantages of Tenancy in Common California

  1. Each owner is responsible for liabilities to the degree of ownership. However, if one owner fails to pay for any reason, the others must make up for the payment.
  2. The right to transfer ownership is another disadvantage of TIC. This is because an owner can decide to sell or transfer his ownership to just about anyone and there is nothing the other owners can do about it.

Terminating a Tenancy in Common California 

The tenancy arrangement It’s relatively easy to end a tenancy in common in California. All that is required of a co-owner is for them to sell, gift, or otherwise transfer their stake to someone else. Owners can file a partition action if legal concerns occur during the termination procedure. In a partition case, the court can order the property to be sold and the proceeds distributed among the owners in accordance with their ownership interests. Fortunately, the guide for terminating a tenancy in a common agreement is not for California residents only.

Joint Tenancy

A legal structure in which two or more persons own a property together, each with equal rights and liabilities. Each owner must have the same interest in the property, hold undivided interest, get their interest at the same time, and acquire their interest using the same deed. In the event of death, the joint tenancy’s interest passes to the other owners if one of the owners dies.

Tenancy in Common vs Joint Tenancy With Right of Survivorship

Tenancy in common and Joint tenancy are both forms of property ownership. The major difference between them is that when one of the tenants in a joint tenancy dies, the surviving tenants acquire their share of the property, this is known as the right of survivorship but in the tenancy in common, the deceased heir becomes entitled to the property. But it differs from tenancy in common. Another difference is that joint tenancy permit owners to sell their stake if they want to, while tenancy in common does not. When this happens, however, it ceases to be a joint tenancy and becomes a tenancy in common. Finally, tenancy in common does not have rights of survivorship but join tenancy does.

Right of Survivorship Tenancy in Common

The right of survivorship is common to joint tenancy and tenancy by the entirety. What is the right of survivorship? The right of survivorship in joint tenancy is a backing that states when one owner dies, the rights of ownership go to the surviving owner. Although the right of survivorship applies to joint tenancy, this right can be severed and when this happens, it becomes a tenancy in common. The main cause of the severity is selling off your ownership stake as a joint owner. 


If you want to buy a house with other people, do well to understand the basics of tenancy in common. Also, ensure you have a binding agreement that stipulates all clauses and how to deal with disputes. Do not fail to add the buy-off option in case your co-owner wants to sell his stake in the house.

FAQs On Tenancy In Common

Can a surviving tenant in common sell the property?

It depends. Generally, even when the co-owner dies his ownership rights are transferred to his heir or anyone he names in his will. However, if there was none, then you can sell it after your partner passes away.

Do Tenants in Common have to go through Probate?

Yes, after a tenant in common dies, you’ll still have to go through Probate. Because their share of the property is included in their Estate, someone will need to apply for the legal authority to deal with the Estate and all of its assets.

Is tenancy in common the best form of home ownership?

Not really. However, it had enable the average man to become a house owner.

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