LAW 515-001 – Property I

Joint Tenancy


Joint tenancy is similar to a tenancy in common in that each co-owner holds a separate and undivided right to possession, but joint tenant also have a right of survivorship. The death of one tenant will result in ownership of the land by the surviving joint tenants, passing outside probate.

A joint tenancy must have the four unities.

Four Unities
  1. Unity of Time

    Interest must be acquired by both tenants at the same time.

  2. Unity of Title

    The interests held by the co-owners must arise out of the same instrument.

  3. Unity of Interest

    Both tenants must have the same interest in the property.

    Both must have the same type of interest, and the interest must run for the same duration.

  4. Unity of Possession

    Both tenants must have the right to possess the whole property.

If a unity is broken, the joint tenancy converts to a tenancy in common.

States are split as to how a lien is handled. They are split between two theories:

  1. Lien Theory

    Under the lien theory, a mortgage only gives the mortgagee a lien on the property.

    This does not sever a joint tenancy.

  2. Title Theory

    Under the title theory, a mortgage gives title to the land to the mortgagee the moment the mortgage is made.

    For a joint tenancy, this immediately severs the right of survivorship and converts the joint tenancy to a tenancy in common.