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Unity of Possession

DEFINITION

Term that describes the legal rights of cotenants including the right of each tenant to use the whole property and not just one portion. It is the essential dynamic included in all types of tenancies in common.

EXPLANATION

Under a unity of possession, owners of a property may own varying degrees of ownership while maintaining that all parties have the right to use all of the property. In a unity of possession one tenant in common may own 25% ownership in a property, while the other owns 75%. Regardless of their share, however, all tenants in common have ownership rights over (or an undivided interest in) the entire property. This includes an unrestricted unity of possession, which states that no portion of the property can be divided with the purpose of excluding one or more tenants in common. An example of when unity of possession my occur is under tenancy in common.

For example, assume Marge and Bill are tenants in common. Marge has a 60% share in the property, while Bill has a 40% share. However, during the tenancy in common, Bill still maintains an equal interest in the property. Therefore, he can access, use, and alter the entire property, not just 40% of it. In the event that the property sells, however, Bill is only entitled to 40% of the overall profit, while Marge is entitled to 60%.

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