When buying property with other people, whether it’s a spouse, relative, friend or business partner, how do you arrange things so that the distribution of the property is fair and equitable? How you legally title the property is important, and joint ownership can be a good solution.
What is roommate?
Co-ownership is a legal way to assign title to a property when several people buy it together, with equal interest and equal rights to the property. The most common form of co-ownership is for married couples who wish to own their home in equal shares. But it can be an option for any group of people who want to become co-owners.
Co-ownership with right of survivorship
Here’s one of the reasons this method of ownership is popular for married couples: In a joint tenancy with right of survivorship (JTWROS), if one owner dies, their share of ownership automatically passes to the other owner or to other owners. This means a newly widowed spouse can stay in the house with full ownership and no legal battles to fight.
Married or not, JTWROS allows the property in question to skip probate and pass directly to the surviving owner(s). Avoiding probate is particularly relevant if it is necessary for one of the tenants to remain in the property permanently as a residence or to maintain a business in operation. To remain in the property, the survivor will only need to provide proof of JTWROS and a death certificate or other proof of death for the deceased.
How does colocation work?
A co-ownership is created when a property is purchased. For a condominium to be created, all of the following criteria, called the “four units”, must be met:
- All tenants must obtain the property at the same time.
- All tenants must have acquired the title deed by the same document.
- All tenants must share an equal interest in the property.
- All tenants must exercise equal ownership rights.
If any of the above conditions are not met, you can legally have a joint tenancy instead of a joint tenancy. More on that next.
Joint ownership vs tenancy in common
Despite the similar sounding names, these two forms of legal title are not the same thing. With a joint tenancy, landlords have more control over who gets their share of the property in the event of death. Here are some key differences:
|If a tenant dies, the property automatically reverts to the surviving tenant||If a tenant dies, he can leave his share of the property to whoever he wants|
|Four units must be met, namely that all tenants must have an equal interest in the property at the time of purchase||Equal interest, rights and acquisition not required – one tenant in common may hold a larger share than another|
|Termination of a joint tenancy before the death of a tenant, called “severance pay”, generally leads to a joint tenancy between the other||Any tenant in common can sell their share in the property at any time|
Advantages and disadvantages of shared accommodation
As with all aspects of buying real estate, condominiums have advantages and disadvantages that should be considered when choosing this option.
- In the case of a joint tenancy, if one of the tenants dies, the property is transferred directly to the surviving tenant(s). This makes it a good choice for married couples who both live on the property.
- Additionally, joint ownership allows ownership to bypass probate entirely in the event of death. This saves a lot of headaches and inconvenience during an already difficult time.
- All co-owners enjoy equal ownership and equal rights.
- In the event of death, the property held in co-ownership is automatically transferred to your other tenants. If you hope to leave your property to another heir, charity or other organization, you should consider other options.
- A condominium can be terminated by a creditor attempting to extort a debt from a single tenant, even if the other tenants have no debt. It is therefore not a good situation if one of the tenants is in debt, has bad credit or has the potential to be involved in a liability lawsuit (personally or professionally, such as medical malpractice).