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Questions about Tenants in Common Law

“Tenants in common” (TIC) is an arrangement that allows two or more individuals to co-own—also known as hold title to—the same property. This is also known as “tenancy in common”. Listed below are a few questions that Experts have answered on “tenants in common” related issues.

My ex-wife resides in our marital home and we are joint tenants in common on the property. Every time I need to go to the house, I call her so she knows that I am in the area. There are no restraining orders in place against me, yet recently she changed the locks in the house, preventing my access to the property. Is she legally allowed to do that?

In the absence of an agreement between your wife and you, neither of you should be able to deny the other co-owner access to the property. Changing the locks does create a denial of access. So legally it’s unlikely she can do that unless she gets a restraining order or gets court approval to go ahead and change the locks. If you are not being allowed to enter the property or are not being given keys, then you should have legal grounds to sue for unlawful ouster.

A couple own a rental property and the husband usually collects the rent. At the divorce, the rental property converts to tenants in common. The husband does not pay the wife half the income due from the rent and does not share the accounts with her. Instead, he uses the money to pay his bills. The couple has not settled equitable distribution but a demand for half the income by the wife has been made. In this situation, can the husband be charged with embezzlement?

Based on the facts of the case, the husband could be charged for civil conversion and embezzlement. But it may not be easy for a District Attorney to prosecute since they might look at it as a civil issue. In most cases, when the divorce court looks at property division, it can either divide the property to account for the extra half of the rental income the husband has taken that was not his or order him to pay the money back.

This is a case where there are five owners who are tenants in common. Two of them want to divide the property and the land while the remaining three are not in favor of the division. Can the two owners proceed with the division with the help of the law?

In this case, the two owners could file a suit for partition of the property. There are two ways in which the court will resolve this issue. One is if the property in question can be subdivided, the court will split it into five parts and each owner will get a share of it. The second is if the court feels the property cannot be subdivided equally, then the court will order for the sale of the property and the proceeds from the sale will be distributed equally among all the owners.

This case is regarding a dispute involving two sisters who are tenants in common. They each inherited an equal share of their parents’ home. The first sister has been living in the house for the past five years. The second one is keen to sell the house so she can retire. But the first sister is not willing to buy the other portion and is not keen to sell the house either. Can you suggest a way in which this dispute can end?

The second sister could hire an attorney and petition the court for a partition for sale. This would mean asking the court to forcibly ensure the property is sold and the proceeds are divided. In such a situation, the consent of the other owner of the property may not be necessary.

What is the meaning of joint-with survivorship (and not as tenants in common)?

I think you mean Joint Tenants with the Right of Survivorship. This means the property is equally owned by both owners and if one of the owners passes away, the surviving owner can claim ownership to the entire property. This can happen even if the deceased’s will mentions anything to the contrary.

Being part of a tenants in common agreement has its advantages and disadvantages. Laws over tenancy rights differ from state to state. As a tenant you must fully understand your rights to your property to avoid misunderstandings in the future.
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