Property and land ownership types

Land and property can be owned in different ways, and by more than one person.

Types of land ownership

Land and property can be owned by one person, which is called sole ownership, or by two or more people

When property is owned by two or more people, there are two different types of joint ownership in South Australia:

  • Tenants in common
  • Joint tenancy

There are important legal differences between tenants in common and joint tenants.

Tenants in common

Tenants in common ownership is often used where the buyers of the property are friends, business associates or relations and they have pooled their funds to purchase the property.

Tenants in Common:

  • hold property in shares apportioned according to each owner's contribution.
  • can request a separate certificate of title for each share of the property. When one owner dies, that person’s share does not automatically go to the other tenant(s) in common. It is distributed according to the deceased person's share of the property and their will or the rules of intestacy if they die without a will.

Joint tenants

Joint tenant ownership is more commonly used by married couples and others in similar relationships. When one owner dies, the survivor is automatically entitled to become the owner of the deceased's interest in a property.

Joint tenants have:

  • an equal interest in the whole of the property unlike tenants in common who have distinct shares in a property.
  • one certificate of title is issued. Upon the death of a joint tenant, the survivor may apply to Land Services SA to become the registered owner of the deceased person's share.

Quick facts

Joint tenant within a tenancy in common

Tenants in common can be joint owners of their share.

For example, A and B own a half share as joint tenants and C owns the other half.

If A dies, A’s share goes to B. Upon registration of A’s death, the registered owners are B a half share and C of the other half share as tenants in common.

Limit to the number of tenants in common or the number of shares

There is no limit on the number of owners that can be included as tenants in common. The minimum number is two. Similarly, there is no restriction on the number of shares held by each owner.

Registering as a joint tenant or a tenant in common

When you buy a property your agent should ask you how you wish to hold the property.  This type of holding will be stated in the contract for sale and purchase.

Once settlement has taken place, a transfer document is lodged at the Land Services SA. This will state how the purchasers are to hold the land. You must understand the difference between the two types of ownership and give your agent clear instructions. If you're not sure, consult your legal representative.

Change ownership type after the transfer is registered

A transfer document will need to be lodged at the Land Services SA  and a fee will apply.

Removing an owner's name from the certificate of title after they've died

If a person listed on a certificate of title as a registered owner dies, forms dependent on the type of ownership need to be completed and lodged with the Land Services SA.

Can I prepare my own documents?

If your documents are properly executed and meet the statutory requirements, then the Lands Services SA will accept them for registration. It is strongly advised to seek advice from a solicitor or registered conveyancer when dealing with real estate.

Related information

On this site

Other websites

Registration forms - Land Services SA

Page last updated 18 August 2020

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Attorney-General's Department
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