Co-ownersip of land

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Like anything else that can be owned, land can be owned by more than one person at a time. Strictly speaking, of course, it is an interest in land that is owned, not the land itself. In England and Wales, it is not possible for a private citizen to 'own' land as such.

When we speak of co-ownership, we normally mean co-ownership of the same interest in the land. The term is not normally used to mean, for example, the relationship between a landlord and a Leasehold tenant. These people are, in some sense, joint owners of the land, but they have different interests in the land. If two people both inherit a house from a person's Will, then they become co-owners. The complexity lies in the nature of the co-ownership -- there are a number of different forms, each with its own principles.

Since 1926, English law has only recognized one form of co-ownership: the JointTenancy. However, joint tenancy implies a strict equivalence of the interests of each co-owner. The owners do not have 'shares' in the land that they can deal with independently. This is often appropriate in, for example, husband-and-wife arrangements, but probably not for business or commercial ownership. In such cases atenancy in common might be preferred, where each co-owner has an separate, identifiable share; but this form of co-ownership is not recognized as legal. Consequently, a Trust is needed to give effect to a tenancy in common.

Although the only form of legal joint ownership that can now be created is a joint tenancy, some joint ownerships governed by archaic principles of co-ownership -- such as Co parceny and Tenancy by entireties -- are still lingering around.


Land and Property Law
Trust Law