Property Co-ownership Disputes: how does it work?

Disputes often arise out of the co-ownership of land and property, and understanding the rules behind property co-ownership can help minimize the risk of potential litigation.  When more than one individual is buying a property – taking expert legal advice from specialist asset protection lawyers on co-ownership issues is critical, whether the property is located in Ontario, or overseas.

The rules relating to property co-ownership are particularly important because of the amount of money invariably tied up in property.  In other words, where there is a dispute, there is a lot at stake.   Property disputes may arise, for instance, during divorce proceedings, when a business relationship breaks down, on the death of a co-owner – and there is a lack of clarity on a property sale as to how much each party should receive out of the sale proceeds.

When two or more people own land and property, they can own it in two different ways in law: as ‘joint tenants’ or as ‘tenants in common’.  (Note that property owned abroad may be subject to the law and jurisdiction of the country in which it is located.)

Joint tenants

Where land or property is owned by two or more people as ‘joint tenants’, they each own the whole of the property – they do not have a divisible share of the property which they can dispose of.  This means the property will automatically pass to the survivor/s on the death of one of the co-owners – this is called ‘the right of survivorship’.  One joint tenant cannot leave a share of the property to someone else under the terms of their Will – because they do not ‘own’ a share in law.

Tenants in Common

If you own the property as ‘tenants in common’, each co-owner owns a distinct share in the property.   They can dispose of their share under the terms of their Will, and when the property is sold – they are each entitled to their share (usually, a percentage of the sale proceeds) on sale.

Owning the property under a tenancy in common is typical, for instance, where the joint owners have contributed unequal amounts to the property purchase; and where spouses have children from previous relationships and they want to be able to ring-fence an asset to allow their respective children to receive something later in life (or on the co-owner’s death).

Severing a Joint Tenancy

You can ‘convert’ a joint tenancy into a tenancy common, a step that is advisable in the event of a relationship breakdown, or where you decide you want an identifiable share in the property. A joint tenancy can easily be ‘severed’ by transferring a share of the title to oneself through the Land Registry Office. No reason has to be given to the other co-owner/s.

A joint tenancy can also be automatically severed, for instance, through ‘course of dealing’, based upon the conduct of the co-owners.  We can explain this to you in detail.

What does this mean?

It is vital to take steps to protect your valuable property interests to minimize the risk of a costly dispute. If you are about to buy a property with someone else, or if you already co-own property but don’t know what your rights are, or you are in a dispute with another co-owner – take urgent, strategic advice from experienced litigation lawyers to protect your interests.

How can we help?

If you have any concerns about property ownership, and money you have tied up in land and property, contact the specialist asset protection lawyers at Rogerson Law Group for expert, strategic advice.

Rogerson Law Group provides domestic and cross border asset protection services in the entire GTA including Toronto, Scarborough, Mississauga, Vaughan, Brampton, Richmond Hill, Etobicoke, and Barrie and surrounding areas with offices located in downtown Toronto, Barrie, and an associated office Ottawa.

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