Joint Tenancy vs. Tenancy in Common

Joint Tenancy vs. Tenancy in Common

The two most common ways to jointly own property with one or more persons in California are joint tenancy and tenancy in common.  The default method of co-ownership is actually tenancy in common.  In other words, unless the deed specifically states the method of co-ownership, the co-owners will hold title as tenants in common.  Accordingly, it is important to specify the method of co-ownership in the deed, especially if the co-owners do not want to own the property as tenants in common.

A few of the similarities and differences between these two methods of co-ownership are explained below.


● Each owner has an equal right to possess, use, and benefit from the entire property

● Each owner is responsible for their proportionate share of the expenses of the property, including payments of mortgage, maintenance, property taxes, insurance, etc.

● Each owner is entitled to their proportionate share of income from the property, such as rental income

● Each owner has a right to encumber their separate interest in the property without affecting the co-owner(s) interest(s)


Accordingly, one of the main issues to consider when deciding whether to jointly own property as tenants in common or joint tenants is how the owner’s interest will transfer upon death.  For example, if a husband and wife or parent and child jointly own property, then holding title as joint tenants is preferable as the decedent’s interest will automatically transfer to the surviving co-owner without the hassle of going through probate or other proceeding.  However, if friends or siblings jointly own property, then holding title as tenants in common may be preferable so that each owner can dictate who will receive their interest in the property when they die.

By: Carina Woo, esq.

See related blog posts: What Happens to Property After the Death of Joint Tenants