The following Property practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:
Severance is the process by which a joint tenancy is converted into a tenancy in common. It is a matter of evidence whether severance has occurred.
There are limitations:
there can be no severance by will
only a beneficial/equitable interest can be severed—a legal estate must be held by way of joint tenancy (see section 36(2) of the Law of Property Act 1925 (LPA 1925))
The consent of the other joint tenants is not required for an individual co-owner to sever a joint tenancy. Any joint tenant can sever the tenancy at any time.
It is usual to consider whether a joint tenancy should be severed when advising on relationship breakdown. Severance may be effected by statutory written notice under LPA 1925, s 36(2). This is the method most commonly used. The notice need not be in any particular form; it need not even use the term severance provided that it shows an immediate intention to terminate the joint tenancy.
In Quigley v Masterson, the High Court held that court documentation served by a joint tenant in Court of Protection proceedings, acknowledging that she owned a 50% share in a property, constituted notice of severance of a joint tenancy.
LPA 1925, s 196 governs service of the notice. The notice must be in writing and is sufficiently served if:
left at the last-known place
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