Severance of a joint tenancy
Severance of a joint tenancy

The following Property guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Severance of a joint tenancy
  • Severance by statutory notice
  • Severance by agreement/conduct
  • Effect of severance

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:

  1. there can be no severance by will

  2. only a beneficial/equitable interest can be severed — a legal estate must be held by way of joint tenancy (see Law of Property Act (LPA) 1925, s 36(2)

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.

Severance by statutory notice

Severance may be effected by statutory written notice under LPA 1925, s 36(2). This is the method most commonly used. It is a standard step to take when advising on relationship breakdown. 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. The fact that the whereabouts of the recipient are not known or that they do not actually receive or read the notice, is not necessarily fatal.

In Quigley, 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