Tenants In Common

Tenants in common (TIC) are co-owners of a piece of real estate who each have a right to the possession and use of the property, as well as separate and undivided interest.

In other words, it’s a type of shared ownership, like joint tenancy. However, unlike joint tenancy, the shares TIC own can be of unequal sizes, and there is no right of survivorship. That means the surviving owner gets the other owner’s share upon their death. The undivided interest of a TIC agreement means a tenant co-owns the entire physical property, not just part of it.

EXAMPLE

Amy and Olivia are best friends. They decide to purchase a home together for a purchase price of $250,000. Amy pays $150,000 and Olivia pays $50,000. The two of them create a tenants in common agreement in which Amy owns a 60% share and Olivia owns a 20% share. Despite the fact that Olivia paid less for and owns less of the property, she is still entitled to use it and enjoy it as much as Amy is. Both of them are responsible for paying their percent share toward the property’s upkeep. They will also receive their percent shares in the property’s income.

Upon the death of a tenant in the concurrent ownership, the interest is passed on to the tenant’s heirs. This is done through a probate — a legal process in which a deceased person’s will or estate is properly administered and distributed. The interest will not be passed on to another tenant in common unless the person is a rightful heir or a purchaser.

EXAMPLE

Let’s say Amy passes away first. Once this happens, it does not mean Olivia is now the sole owner of the property. Because Amy and Olivia made a TIC agreement, Amy’s share will go the person outlined in her will or transferred to her estate.

How Are TIC Different From Joint Tenants?

The two concepts are quite similar, however, joint tenants must have equal shares with right of survivorship. As mentioned before, that means when a tenant dies their share is transferred to the other surviving owners.

EXAMPLE

Joe, Elizabeth, Rose, and Alexander have a joint tenancy on their property. This means each of them owns 25% of the piece of real estate. If Rose was to pass away, her share would be equally distributed amongst Joe, Elizabeth, and Alexander, making them 33% shareholders.

Remember, tenants in common have no right of survivorship. Even if the decedent specifies differently in their will, the share will still be applied to their estate. If the decedent expresses their wish for the share to be equally distributed amongst the remaining co-owners, it will not happen automatically. An explicit, legal document must be provided and an entirely separate process will be conducted.

How Are TIC Different from Tenants by the Entirety?

A tenancy by the entirety specifies that a married couple owns a property together, as a single entity. A tenancy by the entirety can only be made by spouses. If a married couple purchases a property together, then it is a tenancy by the entirety by default, unless otherwise stated in the deed.

An advantage of this agreement is the fact that creditors cannot place a lien on, or take possession of, the couple’s home in an effort to collect unpaid debt. The property can only be attached or sold by the couple and their creditors.

EXAMPLE

Fred and Darlene own their home as tenants by the entirety. Fred has a large debt from incurred medical bills due to an unforeseen complication a few years ago. Now, several collection firms are seeking recovery. However, they have no right to force Fred and Darlene to sell the property or place a lien on it, since Darlene has no obligation to pay off Fred’s debt.

A tenant by the entirety cannot transfer or sell their interest without the expressed, written consent of the spouse. If one of the tenants dies, then the interest is passed on to the surviving spouse.

EXAMPLE

Darlene has a granddaughter, whom she has provided for in her will. She stated that the property she and Fred owns will be left to her upon her death. However, if Darlene passes away, the interest will go directly to Fred, making him the sole owner of the property. Tenancy by the entirety is subject to right of survivorship. So, it would be up to Fred to decide what to do with the property at that point.

Tenants’ Duties

As mentioned before, tenants in common have a right to unrestricted access to the entire property, regardless of the percentage owned. If the property generates income, each tenant in common is entitled to their percent share of it. Each co-owner is also responsible for the basic expenses associated with owning a property, like maintenance, upkeep, and taxes.

The one exception to this rule has to do with improvements. If one of the co-owners would like to alter the property, they are subject to cover the costs themselves. No tenant in common can be forced to pay for improvements unless there is a specific provision in the property agreement. The only way another co-owner will contribute is if they voluntarily agree to.

EXAMPLE

Emma is in a tenancy in common with two of her friends, Rebecca and Sam. She decides that she wants to completely remodel the kitchen to make it more modern. Rebecca agrees, saying she thinks the appliances need updating. Sam says he likes the kitchen the way it is and doesn’t see the point in renovating but tells the other tenants to do as they wish. Emma and Rebecca decide to split the costs together, leaving Sam out of the process.

What Should Be Included

A tenancy in common should be finalized by a legally-compliant agreement. Here is what your agreement should include in order to ensure everything is accounted for:

  • When the agreement is signed and when it takes effect
  • Who the “Original Tenants in Common” are and what their relationship to each other is
  • A description of the property
  • The interest each person holds — it should look something like this:

NOW, THEREFORE, the Tenants in Common agree as follows:

1. Initial Property Interests of Tenants in Common. The Original Tenants in Common each hold the Property in the following undivided ownership interests as tenants in common:

JOHN JOHNSON: 50%
JANE DOE: 50%

  • The explicitly defined terms of the agreement, including rights of partition, interests, bankruptcy procedures, and so on
  • Procedures for management of expenses
  • Any restrictions or variables

If you are currently in the process of making a joint ownership agreement, consult a lawyer before finalizing the document. Also, make sure to have a witness present during the signing.

Dissolving Tenancy In Common

If tenants in common would like to dissolve their agreement, one or more of the co-owners can buy out the other(s). Co-owners may also file a partition action, which helps to allocate the concurrent estate, if another is unwilling to sell the property. Once the property is sold, the money will be divided amongst the co-tenants based on their percent interest.

Jaleesa Bustamante