Co-ownership Disputes

Co-ownership Disputes

It is common for couples, family members, friends and business partners to buy property together. When they do so, they are referred to as ‘co-owners’.

As a result, co-ownership disputes can arise and usually concern the co-owners being unable to agree on when a property should be sold (who is entitled to a share of the proceeds of sale); improved; lived in; and/or rented out. Co-ownership disputes may also arise where a property is purchased in one person’s name, but another person believes they are entitled to a share in the property.

Mercantile Barristers property litigation barristers advise both residential and commercial property owners on the best options to protect their interests. We offer expert advice in a wide range of situations.

Legal and Beneficial Interests in Property

Where two or more people together own real property, they hold it under a trust of land. Where property is held on a trust of land, the legal estate and equitable estate are separate. The legal estate must be held by the co-owners as ‘joint tenants’; and the beneficial interest in the property can, however, be held by the co-owners either as ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common’

A legal interest in property gives the owner a right of control over the property. That allows them to possess it, use it however they wish, or sell or transfer it. The legal owner is the person or people who are registered at HM Land Registry on the title deeds.

A beneficial interest is a right to the benefits of the property. Those benefits may be financial, such as a share of the rent or a share of the proceeds of sale when the property is sold, or they may be practical, such as the right to live in the property. Beneficial owners are not registered on the title deeds at the Land Registry, and therefore it is hard for anyone who is neither a legal owner nor a beneficial owner to find out who the beneficial owners might be, and what benefits they have.

Types of ownership

If the co-owners are joint tenants, each owns 100% of the property. The right of survivorship also applies so on the death of one joint tenant, the deceased’s interest in the property passes automatically to the remaining owner(s). If the co-owners are tenants in common, interests can be unequal, and the share of one does not pass to the survivor but is part of the deceased’s estate.

The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (‘TOLATA’)

Claims in co-ownership disputes are made under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (‘TOLATA’). Any person who has an interest under a trust of land may apply to the court under s 14 TOLATA 1996, for an order under that section. The court may make such order as it thinks fit in relation to the nature or extent of a persons interest in the trust property.

If a co-ownership dispute arises or litigation ensues from a TOLATA claim, these disputes should only be handled by a legal professional with expertise in this area, who has the appropriate litigation experience to advise and represent you on a path to resolution.

Contact our Property Litigation barristers today by filling in our Enquiry Form; emailing us at; or by telephone on 0203 034 0077 and we would be happy to assist.

How Our Process Works

Instructing our direct access barristers is the cost effective alternative to the traditional route of engaging a solicitor first.  The process is just as straightforward. Here’s how the process works:
You can call, email, or fill out an enquiry form to tell us about your case. One of our specialist clerks will speak with  you to make the arrangements to advance your case.

You can call, email, or fill out an enquiry form to tell us about your case. One of our specialist clerks will speak with you to make the arrangements to advance your case.

Our specialist clerk will match you with the barrister with the expertise to deal with all aspects of your case. They will also obtain and organise the papers the barrister will have to consider in your case.

Our clerk will agree the fee for your consultation with the barrister beforehand. The clerk will then arrange a convenient time for you to have the consultation by video call, telephone or in person.

In the consultation the barrister will assess your legal position, devise a legal strategy, and give you appropriate advice on the necessary next steps to achieve your objective. 

Fill in the form below and one of our specialist clerks will get in touch.

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