In What Ways May Joint Tenancy Be Severed?

A joint tenancy is a form of co-ownership where multiple individuals, known as joint tenants, hold an undivided interest in a property. Severing a joint tenancy means ending the joint ownership and converting it into a tenancy in common, where each owner holds a separate and distinct share in the property. Here are some ways in which a joint tenancy may be severed:

Mutual agreement: Joint tenants can agree to sever the joint tenancy by mutual consent. They can execute a written agreement or deed that clearly states their intention to sever the joint tenancy. This agreement typically needs to be signed and witnessed by all joint tenants.

Unilateral notice: One joint tenant can serve a unilateral notice of severance on the other joint tenants. This notice should be in writing and clearly express the intent to sever the joint tenancy. It is usually recommended to register the notice with the Land Registry to provide public notice of the severance.

Mutual conduct: If the joint tenants' actions demonstrate an intention to treat their interests as separate and individual, it can sever the joint tenancy. For example, if one joint tenant starts treating their share of the property independently, such as receiving rental income from their portion or making exclusive alterations to their part of the property, it may indicate an intention to sever.

Sale of transfer (alienation inter vivos): Alienation refers to the transfer or disposition of an interest in the property by one of the joint tenants. If a joint tenant sells, gifts, or otherwise transfers their share to a third party, it severs the joint tenancy. The transferee becomes a tenant in common with the remaining joint tenant(s). This can occur voluntarily through a sale or gift, or involuntarily through legal proceedings, such as a court order or compulsory acquisition.

Bankruptcy (involuntary alienation): If a joint tenant becomes bankrupt, their interest in the property may be dealt with as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. The bankrupt joint tenant's share in the property may be transferred to the trustee in bankruptcy, who can then sell or dispose of the interest. This can result in severance of the joint tenancy and the creation of a tenancy in common between the remaining joint tenant(s) and the trustee or purchaser.

The exact requirements for severing a joint tenancy may vary depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances. Additionally, severing a joint tenancy can have legal and financial implications, so it is advisable to consult with a qualified legal professional, such as a solicitor or conveyancer, to understand the implications and ensure the process is carried out correctly.
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