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Types of Tenancy in North Carolina

By Tiffany Raiford

North Carolina law states that when two or more persons own a property, their relationship is defined as tenancy. There are three main types of tenancy that are recognized in the state. Each one has a different meaning and different structure. These different forms of tenancy handle issues from what happens to a property when one owner passes and how it relates to creditors upon death. Each of the three types of tenancy comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, each clearly defined.

Tenancy in Common

This is the form of tenancy with the most flexibility. Owners are free to pass ownership on to anyone of their choosing at any time. An owner can pass ownership through a deed or even through a will. Owners with a tenancy in common tenancy have the freedom to own different ratios of a property as well. For example, one owner can have a 50 percent interest in a property while two more owners each have a 25 percent ownership. By signing over interest to another party, any owner is free to sever ties with other tenants in common at any time.

Tenancy by Entirety

Essentially, tenancy by entirety is a form of joint ownership available only to legally married or civilly recognized couples. This means that two owners of a piece of real property cannot be siblings or friends; they cannot even be a couple who is engaged to be married if they are not already legally married. This type of tenancy is good for those who want to avoid issues with tenants that don't necessarily agree, but it is much more difficult to obtain this type of tenancy in North Carolina. Another benefit of this type of property is that if a creditor wants to place a lien on real property on one of the tenants, they cannot do so unless both tenants agree to it.

Joint Tenants

When you enter into a joint tenancy agreement in North Carolina, all owners of real property have an equal interest in the ownership. For example, if a property has four joint tenants, each tenant owns 25 percent of the property. If one tenant should pass, his or her portion of ownership is immediately transferred equally to the remaining three tenants. The disadvantage of joint tenancy is the fact that if one tenant defaults on a debt and a creditor wants to place a lien on the property to satisfy said debt, it is perfectly legal. Even if the remaining tenants object to the sale of the property to satisfy another tenants debts, their objections are not considered valid.

Researching the different types of tenancy in North Carolina is strongly recommended for all property owners prior to obtaining property with other tenants. While each different form of tenancy has its advantages and disadvantages, the one that is right for you might not be right for others. Your primary interest should be the protection of your property and your finances.

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