Tenancy in Severalty – Real Estate Ownership

There are several different types of real estate ownership. In real estate law, it’s important to know ownership interest that property owners have. It’s especially important for estate planning purposes. There are benefits and disadvantages to every form of real estate ownership, so it’s important to understand each one as a homeowner. Who’s name appears on the deed or title? Tenancy in severalty is the most common form of real estate ownership for people who are single.

What is Tenancy in Severalty?

Tenancy in severalty (also known as ownership in severalty) is when a property has one owner. This means that the owner has an exclusive right to the property, and they have freedom to do whatever they want with it. Whether the owner wants to build an addition or subdivide some land is up to them. When people think about ownership in severalty, they often assume the owner is a person; however, it’s important to note that ownership in severalty can apply to corporations as well.

Other Types of Real Estate Ownership

Other common types of real estate ownership include joint tenancy, tenancy in common, and tenancy by the entirety. Joint tenancy is when a property is owned jointly by two or more parties. Tenancy in common is also when multiple parties own a property, but a key difference is that each owner has a separately transferable interest. Tenancy by the entirety is when a married couple owns property as a single legal entity, with each having an equal and undivided interest in the real estate.

Joint tenancy, tenancy in common, and tenancy by the entirety involve multiple owners, whereas tenancy in severalty involves a sole-owner.

House owned in severalty

Pros and Cons of Ownership in Severalty

One benefit of owing a property in severalty is that the owner has complete control over it. The owner can sell, lease, mortgage, or simply transfer ownership whenever they want to. Another major benefit is easy estate planning. Inheritance amounts and property portions are more straightforward than some other forms of real estate ownership.

There biggest disadvantage is that there are no rights of survivorship. This means that when an owner passes away, there could be a lengthy legal process before property is passed to any heirs. This form of real estate ownership does not make sense for married couples, unless somebody specifically does not want their spouse to inherit their assets if they were to pass away.

Why is it Called Tenancy in Severalty?

Many people find the term “severalty” misleading because it sounds like more than one. However, the definition of severalty is the condition of being separated. A good way of thinking about is that an owner is severed from others.

Can Corporations Own a Property in Severalty?

Yes, just like individuals, corporations can also have ownership in severalty. This would mean that the corporation is the sole owner of the property. This is common in many owner occupied and real estate investment properties where one entity owns 100% of the property in question. It’s important for commercial banks to understand commercial real estate ownership structure when engaged in lending activities.


Although a simple concept, tenancy in severalty is an important concept in real estate law. It is the only form of ownership that involves just one owner. Although it has several advantages, there are certain situations where alternative forms of ownership would make more sense.