Analysis of Property Ownership and Severance Rights

The current issue in this case is determining the type of ownership that A, B, C and D have over the property they purchased. Further, the issue is whether or not the events that have occurred in the current case have led to severance of the ownership of the parties, and to determine the rights of the parties involved.

The ownership of the house in question is joint tenancy, where A, B, C and D meets the four requirements of joint tenancy, namely, unities of possession, interest, title and time when they bought the house to live while they were studying. The deed expressly said so and it is conclusive. Their equal contribution to the purchase price further supports the joint tenancy. Even though C was 17 and a minor at the time of the purchase of the house, it is still a joint tenancy. A, B and D will hold the tenancy in trust until C reaches 18.

In joint tenancy, the joint tenants collectively own the property. There is no independent share. The rule of survivorship applies to joint tenancy. Thus, a joint tenant cannot transfer his share by will as his share upon his death will pass to the surviving joint tenant. This is unlike tenancy in common where the rule of survivorship does not apply, and a tenant’s interest is transferred by the term of his will or to legal heirs.


According to Section36(2) of the Law of Property Act 1925, a joint tenant can severe joint tenancy through a written notice to other tenants of his desire to sever. For a written notice to be effective, it must be served on all existing tenants. The notice must express the intent to sever with immediate effect.

A joint tenancy can be severed, as was held in William v Hensman, by an act of a one of the joint tenants, operating on their own shares. A severance by any act of a joint tenant could be in form of an alienation by mortgaging his interest in the joint tenancies. Such alienation can also occur when a joint tenant conveys his interest in the land to another person.

Severance can be by mutual agreement. Severance occurs when the joint tenants enter into a specifically enforceable contract. There is no need to have written evidence or valuable consideration. The parties have to expressly agree to such severance or contemplate a dealing with the property that involves severance, for example agreeing to sale the property. Severance can be by a course of dealing sufficiently showing parties

  1. Judith Bray, Unlocking Land Law (2016) 214.
  2. Gallant v Gallant [1986] Fam 106
  3. Judith Bray, Unlocking Land Law (Taylor & Francis 2019).
  4. Shelter, ‘Good practice: briefing Tenancies for minors’ (2007) accessed 17 July 2021 .
  5. Mark Richards, A Practical Approach to Conveyancing (Oxford University Press2016) 53.
  6. Kathryn J. Haupt, Washington Real Estate Fundamentals (Rockwell Pub. 2006) 29.
  7. Harris v Goddard [1983] 3 All ER 242 .
  8. Williams v Hensman (1861) 70 E.R. 862
  9. Gilbert Kodilinye, Commonwealth Caribbean Property Law (Taylor & Francis 2014).
  10. Gamble v Hazel Hankle (1990) 27 J.L.R 115; Gilbert Kodilinye, Commonwealth Caribbean Property Law (Taylor & Francis 2014).
  11. Williams v Hensman (1861) 70 E.R. 862
  12. Gilbert Kodilinye, Commonwealth Caribbean Property Law (Taylor & Francis 2014) 109.
  13. interests to treat the ownership as a tenancy in common. All the tenants have to agree to treat their interest as a tenancy in common.

    In the current case, A’s notice is not served to D. For severance through notice, the notice has to be served to all the tenants. Further, the notice does not show A’s offer to have immediate effect. Thus, the joint tenancy is not severed by A’s written notice. Looking for further insights on Resolving Ownership Disputes in Property Sales? Click here.

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    The will made by B in 2016 does not apply to joint tenancy. Trasnfer of her interest could be only through conveyancing it to another person. It is not valid as the principle of survivorship applies to joint tenancy and in case of B’s demise, her interest in the joint property would have been passed to A, C and D. However, B’s loan for her car was secured against her interest in the joint property. This act of B is an alienation when she mortgaged her interest in the joint tenancy. Thus, it severed the joint tenancy. Based on these ground, E does not have claim over the property. F can claim the car as per the Will. Regarding B’s interest, it will be transferred to her legal heirs.

    In regard to the discussion that A, C and D had about separating their shares in future, it does not show any express agreement between them to this effect. It does not qualify as a course of dealing sufficiently showing their interests to treat the ownership as a tenancy in common. Hence, it does not quality severance.

    This does not stop them from having separate and distinct shares. B’s loan has already severed the joint ownership. The parties are now tenants in common with each party owning their respective shares. Thus, if one of the tenants dies, their share goes to the person named in the Will made by the tenant. Thus, after A’s demise, according to the Will, A’s share will go to G.

  14. Williams v Hensman (1861) 70 E.R. 862
  15. Liz Barclay, UK Law and Your Rights For Dummies (Wiley 2011)
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