Co-owners’ share in joint property
Under the Transfer of Property Act (TPA), the interest of each co-owner is proportionate to his/her financial contribution made at the time of purchase
When a certain immovable property is purchased by two or more individuals, it is called a jointly owned property and the individuals are referred to as co-owners. Each owner’s individual share can be clearly specified only if the sale deed states the percentage/proportion that each individual owns in relation to the entire property. One may even identify the undivided share of each individual co-owner by giving a physical description of the specific portions of the property owned by such individuals. On the other hand, there are numerous instances where the description or quantum of each co-owner’s share in a jointly owned property was either not clearly specified or completely omitted in the sale deed. In such a case a challenge arises from the perspective of the co-owners and prospective buyers who wish to purchase either the whole or a portion of the jointly owned property - how can each owner’s share be determined?
In such cases where there are several joint owners of an immovable property, the provisions of Transfer of Property Act (TPA) can help ascertain the quantum of ownership, rights and interest of each co-owner. However, it is important to understand that the determination of each co-owner’s share, rights and interest in a particular joint property may also be affected by the unique facts and circumstances of each individual case.
Under the TPA, the interest of each co-owner shall be in proportion to their share of purchase money which was contributed (by each such coowner) at the time of buying the property. Often, two or more individuals jointly buy a property by making a payment of sale consideration from a common fund. In this case too, the share of each coowner in the joint property shall be equivalent to his/her individual interest/contribution in the common fund. There are also instances where it may not be possible to determine the precise amount which was paid or contributed by each individual co-owner towards the total sale consideration amount. In the absence of any valid proof (eg cheque details, RTGS details), the law shall presume that each co-owner has equal interest and equal share in the joint property.
One must bear in mind that these TPA provisions are applicable in the absence of a contract to the contrary between the parties (that is, if the parties have not executed any document which clearly sets out the share of each co-owner in the joint property). To secure one’s rights, title and interest in a joint property, it is advisable for co-purchasers to discuss the nature and extent of each proposed co-purchaser’s share prior to finalising the actual sale-purchase transaction. It is best to set out the ownership share of each co-owner at the time of purchasing the property in the sale deed so there is little room for dispute later.