i. a form of concurrent ownership wherein each co-tenant is the owner of a separate and distinct share of property, which has not been divided amond the cotenants. Each owner has a separate undivided interest in the whole.
i. Right to possession
a) each tenant in common has the right to possess and enjoy the entire property
ii. No right of survivorship
a) when a tenant in common dies, his interest passess to her devisees or heirs
a) all joint tenants must acquire title by the same instrument or by joint adverse possession
iii. unity of interest
a) all must have equal undivided shares and indentical interests measured by duration
iv. unity of possession
a) each must have the right to possession of the whole
c. Creation of joint tenancy --- overcoming the presumption of tenancy in common
i. can be created only by express words in an instrument indicating an intent to create a joint tenancy
ii. the clearest way to create a joint tenancy is to convey "to A and B as joint tenants with the right of survivorship, and not as tenants in common.
d. Severance of Joint tenancies
i. Riddle v. Harmon
a) any joint tenant can at any time destroy the right of survivorship by severing the joing tenancy. Upon severance the joint tenancy becomes a tenancy in common and the right of survivorship is destroyed.
b) don't have to go through strawman first -- lower transaction costs -- but didn't person bargain for right of survivorship?
a) at common law a mortgage had the effect of conveying the legal title to the money lender -- this destroyed the joint tenancy and made it a tenancy in common
b) criticism -- automatic application of the doctrine may lead to inadvertance severance and getting rid of right of survivorship
ii. Lien Theory States --- Harms v. Sprague
a) in lien theory states, a mortgage does not sever the joint tenancy but the states differ on whether the surviving joint tenant takes one-half subject to the mortgage if the debt is not paid off before the debtor joint tenant dies
b) Harms v. Sprague held that the tenants takes over the one-half without the encumbrance of the mortgage -- survivor becomes owner of property not as a successor of the deceased but throught he conveyance which created the joint tenancy
i) leads to fact that lender will not give mortgage to one joint tenant; lender who does not know of it loses his security if the debtor dies and the survivor gets a windfall
c) making the lien applicable to the survivor would serve the purpose of protecting the creditor while at the same time protecting survivor rights
iii. Does it matter if the debtor survives the other co-tenant?
a) places burden on co-tenant occupying to show an agreement that she was not to pay
2. Accounting for rents received from a third party
i. any rents or other income collected by a co-tenant from a third party must be shared equally with theother co-tenants if the income exceeds the collecting co-tenants proportional share
3. Exploting natural resources
a. Rule ---- a co-tenant is accountable for profits derived from a use of land that permanently reduces it value
a) not entitled to take your fair share because of the difficulty in estimating the amount and value of the minerals
a) some courts allow you to cut your proportional share b/c it is easily ascertainable
4. Actions by co-tenant to protect property
a. General rule
i. a co-tenant who pays money to keep up the property, which benefits all co-tenants, is entitled to reimbursement for more than her proportionate share of costs. But the courts try to do what is equitable under the circumstances
i. seen as voluntary -- no person has a duty to repair his property
ii. A co-tenant who makes necessary repairs cannot compel contribution from her co-tenant. She must wait until an accounting or partition
i. no co-tenant has a duty to improve either -- General principle is that the improver should get the value added by the improvements, and if the improvements add no value, the improver is not reimbursed -- the improver bears the risk
i. co-tenants are family members (brother and sister)
c. Imposed in one of two situations
i. where one cotenant buys concurrently owned property at a mortgage foreclosure or tax sale and then asserts a superior title against cotenants --- here the courts normally compel the buyer to hold the superior title for the benefit of all the cotenants, provided they reimburse the buyer
ii. claim of adverse possession?
a) not easily achieved because of some courts assumption of fiduciary relationship
6. Partition --- Delfino v. Vealencis
i. Any tenant in common or joint tenant has the right to bring a suit in partition. This is an equitable proceeding in which the court either physically divides the property or sells the common property, adjusts all claims of the parties, and separates them.
b. Partition in kind -- physical partition of the property
i. Once the land is partitioned, each party owns the land in fee simple