YOU may own a property jointly with somebody or have contributed to the purchase price, but do you know what your ownership rights are?

If you are buying a house jointly with somebody, your solicitor will establish whether you want to hold it as 'joint tenants' or 'tenants in common' and advise you of the implications.

If parties own the house as joint tenants, it means both own the whole of the home. If the property is sold the parties are entitled to an equal share of the proceeds. And if one party dies, the other automatically becomes the sole owner of the home, irrespective of what any will says, or their contribution towards the price.

With tenants in common, each party owns a fixed share. This could be half each, or it could be a defined percentage, depending on the financial contribution towards the purchase price. When the property is sold each gets their share.

If one party dies, their share is dealt with in accordance with the terms of their will, or the rules of intestacy; the other owner does not automatically inherit.

Buying as tenants in common is therefore appropriate when friends or family are buying together to get on the property ladder; where unmarried couples are making unequal contributions to the purchase price; or where couples with children from previous relationships wish to leave their share to their children. In some cases a detailed Declaration of Trust Deed should be drawn up to deal with potential issues that may arise and minimise the risk of dispute if relationships break down.

If you are unsure, take legal advice.

Next time, I will consider what happens if you have contributed towards the cost of a house, but are not one of the registered legal owners.