The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (“TOLATA”) plays a crucial role in regulating co-ownership of property in the United Kingdom. In the context of co-ownership disputes, the Notice of Severance is an important document when protecting your beneficial interest in a property.

What is the difference between Joint Tenants and Tenants in Common?

Where more than one person owns a property, the co-owners typically hold the property under a joint tenancy, where each party has an equal and undivided interest. Severance allows an individual co-owner to convert this joint tenancy into a tenancy in common, with each co-owner having a distinct and quantifiable share.

  1. Joint Tenancy: In a joint tenancy, co-owners share an undivided and equal interest in the entire property. The principle of survivorship means that if one co-owner passes away, their share automatically transfers to the surviving joint tenant(s) and does not form part of the deceased co-owner’s estate.
  2. Tenancy in Common: In contrast, tenants in common each own a specific, identifiable share of the property, which can be equal or unequal. There is no right of survivorship; if a co-owner dies, their share becomes part of their estate and passes according to their Will or the laws of intestacy.

What is a Notice of Severance?

A Notice of Severance is a written notice which is sent to the co-owner(s) of the property, setting out your intention to sever the joint tenancy as explained above.

  1. Requirements for Valid Notice of Severance: A Notice of Severance must be in writing and explicitly convey the intention to sever the joint tenancy. The notice must be served on the co-owner(s) before a restriction is filed with the Land Registry.
  2. Impact on Co-Ownership Disputes: The Notice of Severance often arises in the context of disputes among co-owners, such as disagreements over the sale of the property, or the breakdown of a relationship with the co-owner(s). In these circumstances we strongly advice a notice of severance is served at the earliest opportunity.

If you have any further questions about Notices of Severance or require assistance in respect of a property dispute, please do not hesitate to contact Philippa Rowley and Nina Chahal.