Some tenants occupy rented property as individuals but many more occupy as joint tenants, tenants in common or licensees.

Married or cohabiting couples are frequently joint tenants, but so, also, are groups of friends. Whether they occupy as tenants or licensees, it is important to understand the differences between them, since each has its own set of characteristics and rules which will apply when it comes to granting renewal or termination.

Types of co-tenancy

There are only two types of co-tenancy, or tenancies where there are occupiers who share the tenancy of a property. These are:

  • Tenancy in common
  • Joint tenancy

Tenants in common

Tenants in common simply hold separate tenancies for their particular parts of the property that they occupy, but often share other parts – the common areas. The tenancies may frequently be granted at different times, or different rents and for different terms of occupation.

An example of tenants in common might be a student house in which the individual rooms have been let to different students on separate tenancy agreements.

Joint tenancy

A joint tenancy is the more common form of co-tenancy where the tenancy is granted to a group of sharers as a single transaction. The principle behind the joint tenancy is that, although the rights granted by the landlord are, in fact, granted to a group of people, this group is treated by the law in many respects as if it was a single person. For a sharing arrangement to be considered a joint tenancy, it is necessary that the individuals who make up the group are associated, such that it must be possible to demonstrate or satisfy four unities [AG Securities v Vaughan,1990 1 AC 417].

The four unities are:

  • Unity of possession
  • Unity of title
  • Unity of time
  • Unity of interest

Unity of possession

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