Tenants in Common & Estate Taxes


People can own property in several different ways. One of these ways is a “tenancy in common.” A tenancy in common refers to property owned by multiple people (called tenants). State property laws deal specifically with the rights and responsibilities of tenants in common; these laws may vary from state to state. Tenants in common must each pay a percentage of the real estate taxes on the property.

Tenants in Common

A tenancy in common is the default form of co-ownership. When discussing tenants in common, it helps to differentiate it from another common co-tenancy: joint tenants. Tenants in a joint tenancy each must own an equal share of the property (according to the personal finance website The Money Alert). A tenancy in common may have unequal interests, such as one tenant owning 75 percent of the property and the other owning 25 percent. Tenants in common can transfer their interests freely, and an interest passes to a tenant's heirs upon death. An interest in a joint tenancy is not freely transferable (doing so transforms the tenancy into a joint tenancy) and the interest does not pass upon death (the last remaining tenant, however, becomes the sole owner of the property).

General Duties and Obligations

Co-ownership gives rise to certain duties and obligations between the tenants. Each co-tenant can use and access the property. If one tenant tries to prevent another tenant from doing so, an “ouster” has occurred; the “ousted” tenant can seek legal help to recover against the other tenant. If the property generates income, each tenant is entitled to a portion of it. Tenants must also pay their fair share of the mortgage and property taxes.

Real Estate Taxes

Local tax authorities assess real estate taxes to parcels of real property. According to Sirkin & Associates, a California law firm, a tenancy in common involves one parcel of real property with multiple owners; this means that the real estate taxes are assessed only in one lump sum against the property. The tenants in common are obligated to pay the taxes. Often, the amount each tenant pays is based on her ownership interest. A tenant with 35 percent ownership in the property would pay 35 percent of the real estate taxes, for example.

Other Issues

A tenancy in common is a legal relationship between people who each own a fraction of a piece of land. If one tenant is not paying his share of the rent or mortgage, or if other legal issues arise, the other tenants may need to seek legal assistance.

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