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Property is often owned by more than one person. One form of ownership by multiple owners is a joint tenancy. Joint tenancy of a property creates a special relationship between the co-owners, and entitles them to specific rights and duties unique to this form of ownership. This article will examine the basic rights and duties of joint tenants in Texas.
Right of Access and Possession
One of the most important rights a joint tenant has is the right to possession of the co-owned real estate. The right to possession includes the right to enter the property and to use the entire property. While a co-tenant may use the entire property, the right to possession does not give a co-tenant the right to occupy a particular portion of the property to the exclusion of the other co-tenants.
It is important to note that possession by one co-tenant is not considered adverse to the interests of another co-tenant who is not in possession of the property. Therefore, in most circumstances, one co-tenant’s use of the property will not give rise to an adverse possession claim against co-tenants who do not use the property. A co-tenant that is solely in possession of the property does not owe rent to co-tenants not in possession, except in circumstances where the co-tenant in possession bars the other co-tenants from use.
Improvements to Joint Property
Joint tenants also have the right to make improvements to the co-owned property. Co-tenants may reasonably improve a property without the consent of the other co-tenants, so long as it does not injure the rights of other co-tenants. Importantly, this right is subordinate to the right of each co-tenant to possess the whole property. This means that an improvement that would limit a co-tenant’s ability to use or possess part of the property would not be allowed without consent.
In addition, a non-consenting co-tenant has no obligation to reimburse a co-tenant that spends money to improve the property. However, a non-joining co-tenant does not own improvements made at the sole expense of one co-tenant. The exception to this rule is for improvements that are necessary and beneficial to the property. A co-tenant that expends money on a necessary and beneficial improvement is entitled to proportionate reimbursement from the other co-tenants.
Transfer, Sale, and Encumbrance of Jointly Owned Property
Joint tenants are free to transfer, through sale or other means, their proportionate interest in a property without the consent of other co-tenants. As a co-tenant may only convey their proportionate interest, they cannot convey a specific portion of the property to a third party, as this would interfere with the other co-tenants right access to the entire property. A co-tenant requires the consent of other co-tenants before imposing an easement or other voluntary encumbrance in favor of a third party.
Rents, Mineral, and Timber Rights
Co-tenants are free to extract minerals from the property without the consent of the other co-tenants, but must pay to them the proportionate value of the minerals extracted. This includes oil and gas, as well as timber. A co-tenant who expends money exploring for, producing, or selling minerals without the consent or agreement of his fellow co-tenants has no right to reimbursement for such expenses, but must still reimburse for the proportionate value of the minerals extracted. Each co-tenant is also entitled to proportionate shares of other rents received from third parties for the use of the property.
Duty to Protect and Preserve Property
One of the most important duties of a joint tenant is the duty to protect and preserve the co-owned property. Co-tenants have a duty to preserve and protect the property as it exists when possession begins. Necessary expenses paid by one tenant to preserve the property are proportionately reimbursed by the other tenants. An example of a necessary expense would include repairing the property after it is damaged by a natural disaster or storm. However, expenses incurred by one tenant to develop the property for a new use not existing at the time possession began are generally not deemed necessary, and the co-tenant will have no right to reimbursement.
Contact Sheehan Law, PLLC Today
If you have questions regarding joint tenancies, or anything else relating to real estate law in the Austin, Round Rock, or Pflugerville area, contact the real estate attorneys at the Law Office of Farren Sheehan for a consultation.