Co-ownership of Property: Joint Tenancy or Tenancy In-Common?

What is the difference between the two and under what circumstances should one chooses either one of the two?

It is common knowledge that two or more people may share ownership of a property. When one is looking to purchase a property with one’s partner, relatives or friends, one may not think about the manner of co-ownership of a property. First reason is perhaps one may not know there is such difference, and even if one knows, may not fully understand the difference between the two.

In the case of purchasing private property where a conveyancing lawyer is involved in the conveyancing process, one may learn about it at the law firm’s office. In the case of purchasing a public housing flat (Housing and Development Board flat), one is at the mercy of one’s real estate agent’s knowledge on this and there is only during the Resale Submission where one has to indicate which manner to hold the property.

There are two different manners for two or more persons to hold a property:

1. Joint Tenancy

In joint tenancy, each co-owner is presumed to have an equal share in the property without having distinct shares. Each co-owner is regarded as wholly entitled to the property. The main characteristics of a joint tenancy is the right of survivorship – on the death of one co-owner, the deceased co-owner’s interest automatically passes to the surviving co-owner(s). In the other words, survivor(s) take all. Neither of the co-owners can dispose of their interest by Will. Common mode of ownership in joint tenancy manner is between married couples, or parent-child(ren), close family members or relatives.

2. Tenancy-in-Common

Concurrent ownership of a property by 2 or more persons, each having a distinct but undivided share in the property.  Each co-owner is not regarded as being entitled to the whole property. Each co-owner can sell his shares away.

Forms of Ownership in Summary

Joint Tenancy Tenancy-in-Common
Equal share in the property without having distinct shares Shareholding needs not be equal
The right of survivorship. Upon death of one co-owner, the deceased co-owner's entitlement in the property passes to the survivor(s) No right of survivorship. The deceased co-owner's entitlement in the property passed to his estate
Upon death of a co-owner the surviving co-owner can deal with the property Upon death of a co-owner, the property cannot be dealth with by the survivor(s)
Can be converted to tenancy-in-common in equal shares by registering a declaration at the Singapore Land Registry Where the shareholding is equal, it can be converted to a joint-tenancy at the Singapore Land Registry



If two or more persons intend to purchase a property in equal share, with no possibility of any co-owner to sell his shares away to someone else, and every co-owner intends to pass on the property to the surviving co-owner on co-owner’s death, they should opt for joint tenancy as manner of holding the property.

Likewise, if the two or more persons have intention to pass his interest to another person other than the other co-owners, he should opt for tenancy-in common as manner of holding the property.  


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