All land and fixed (immovable) structures, such as an apartment or home, are considered real property. These types of property may be jointly owned by two or more people, which means, they all hold title to the property. Joint ownership of real property can be classified into the three most common types of ownership:

  1. Tenants in Common (TIC)
  2. Joint Tenancy
  3. Tenancy by the Entirety

The first, tenancy in common, splits the shares of property in relation to how much each individual contributed to the purchase of the property. When an owner dies, her shares are passed onto her heirs. Joint tenancy differs in that, if an owner dies, her shares go to the other owner(s), known as the right to survivorship. Joint tenancy must have the following three requirements to exist:

  • Interest: Each owner has the same interest.
  • Possession: Each owner holds an undivided interest.
  • Time: All owners receive their interest at the same time.
  • Title: All owners acquire their interest with the same deed.

Tenancy by the entirety is limited to married couples. The sale of property is prohibited without the consent of both parties. If one spouse dies, the right to survivorship comes into play, and her/his shares go to the other spouse.

What Are My Rights as a Joint Owner of Real Property?

Generally, joint owners have the right to possess and use the property. Most states do not require a joint owner to pay rent to the other joint owner(s) while exercising this right. A joint owner who is in sole possession of the property may not exclude other owners in the use and possession of the property. If this were to occur, the owner doing so would be liable to pay rent to the other joint owners, as this is referred to as an ouster. However, the right to exclude all others from the property, is valid.

Your rights as a joint owner also include:

  • Money owed from renting the property to tenants.
  • Profits from the sale of natural resources, as well as commercial revenue.

Your share of profits and rent depends on how much stake you hold in the property. State laws vary, and a real estate lawyer can assist you in determining your rights and duties as a joint owner of real property.

What Are My Duties as a Joint Owner of Real Property?

As a joint owner, you are responsible for paying your share of taxes, mortgage payments, fees, maintenance, repairs, and anything else required by the state. If you leave waste on the property, you must compensate the other joint owners. If you did not agree to pay for improvements performed by another owner, then generally, you are not responsible for paying the bill.

What Happens if there are Joint Real Property Ownership Disputes?

If there is a dispute with the other joint owner of the real property, then the first step should be to determine the nature of the issue. Is it over the income the property generates? Is it due to cost of repairs for the property? Is it because you are using their space on the property?

Whatever it is, once you figure out the dispute then you can refer back to your agreement as joint owners and contact a lawyer to help you. Once you establish which joint owner has violated the agreement, then that owner that violated the agreement can fix their mistake, pay for the cost of their violation, or offer to buy out the other owner in their share of the property. 

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me with My Joint Ownership Problem?

An experienced property attorney will be able to assist with any problems you may have in regards to your property, as well as problems you may have with other joint owners. You may also wish to consult a probate attorney to set up a will or trust for your heirs and property.