Conventional legal wisdom is that ownership as joint tenants means that the ownership is equal and that the survivor will be entitled to everything. If the shares are to be unequal then a tenancy in common is the appropriate form of co-ownership, backed in appropriate cases by an ownership agreement.
The decision of the Supreme Court in Jones V Kernott dealt with an unmarried couple who bought a house in joint names and, after a short time, separated leaving just one of them paying the mortgage. The court awarded Mr Kernott just 10 per cent of the proceeds and spelled out the ways in which the presumption of joint and equal ownership can be rebutted. Each case will turn on its own facts and the express intentions of the parties, as well as those which can be inferred from their actions, with the final decision being based on fairness.
The case will undoubtedly provide opportunities for joint owners who appear to be unfairly prejudiced by equal ownership treatment, although the legal road for any aggrieved party will inevitably be long and expensiveIf the co-owners are married or in a civil partnership, then there is a readyforum for dealing with these problems. For other couples who buy a property together, they are far better advised to deal with co-ownership issues at the time they make the acquisition rather than relying on litigation based on the Jones v Kernott case.