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Who Really Owns Your Home?

If you have ever bought a residential property (or indeed enjoyed or endured commercial television or radio), you will surely be familiar with the phrase: “Your home is at risk if you do not keep up repayments on a mortgage or other loan secured on it.” We are regularly reminded mortgage lenders have financial interests in our properties and we need to meet our obligations to those lenders. If we fail to do so, mortgage lenders can repossess our homes.

30 October 2016
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Many people, therefore, feel they do not truly own their home as long as they still have a mortgage to pay.

Nonetheless, even if you put economic commitments to one side, there remain legal angles and complexities to home ownership. If you want to be sure of your property ownership (or ‘tenure’) status, here are seven key terms and issues you need to understand:

  • Leasehold: effectively a fixed term of ownership of a property.
  • Freehold: basically permanent and absolute ownership of a property or land.
  • Commonhold: a system of property ownership in England and Wales, whereby multiple owners each hold freehold tenure of part of a property (such as a flat in a block of flats). The owners are called ‘unit-holders’ and collectively own and manage the common parts of the property.
  • Joint property ownership: are you sure you would own the house you live in if your spouse or partner died tomorrow? You can, for example, jointly own a property as ‘joint tenants’ (with equal rights to the whole property) or ‘tenants in common’ (whereby you can own differing shares in the property). As joint tenants (sometimes known as ‘beneficial joint tenants’), the property automatically passes to the other owner if one of you dies and you therefore cannot pass on your ownership of the property in your will. If, however, you and your partner are tenants in common, the property will not automatically pass to the other owner if one of you dies and you can pass on your share of the property in your will.
  • Changing joint property ownership: if, sadly, your relationship fails and you divorce or separate from the person with whom you jointly own your house, you can change your ownership status from being joint tenants to tenants in common. By doing so, you can leave your share of the property to someone else in your will. Alternatively – and rather more positively – if you marry and wish to have equal rights to your home, you can change from being tenants in common to joint tenants.
  • Transferring ownership: if you are the sole owner of a property and, for example, you want to add your partner or spouse as a joint owner, this process is called ‘transferring ownership’. You can become either tenants in common or joint tenants. In either case, you must tell…
  • Land Registry: a government department with responsibility for registering the ownership of land and property in England and Wales. Land Registry currently safeguards land and property ownership worth over £4 trillion. Anyone buying or selling land or property, or taking out a mortgage, must apply to Land Registry to register a new owner of registered land or property; unregistered land or property, or; an interest affecting registered land or property, such as a mortgage, a lease or a right of way.

If you're in the midst of a property ownership dispute, Guillaumes property dispute lawyers can help. Contact us today for more information.