What is joint ownership of land?


Joint ownership of land simply means when 2 or more people own a piece of land or lands jointly. Any right, benefit, claim or over that piece or parcel of land belongs to the owners jointly and not on an individual basis.


Example of jointly owning a land includes a land that belongs to a husband and wife (not or wife), Father and daughter, Mother and Son, Sister and Brother, Business partner 1 and Business partner 2, Lands owned by a cooperative society, land owned by a company etc.


This means that “One person cannot sell or dispose of the land without the consent of the other person”. For example, if a land is jointly owned by a husband and wife for so many years and due to some unforeseen circumstances the marriage ends in a divorce, the land cannot be sold by either the husband or wife without the consent of the other partner even though they are no longer in a relationship.


“Anyone who purchases that land sold by either the husband or wife without the consent of the other partner in the marriage has purchased a defective property that could be rejected and revoked by the courts”. So what is important to note here is that neither of the parties jointly owning the land can dispose that land without the consent of the other.




What then are the Legal Implications of Joint Ownership of Land?


The following legal implication is created in a land jointly owned by persons or a group of persons:



  • Whatever improvement be it a building or uncompleted structure affixed to the land or crops made on the land, forms part of the land that belongs to the joint owners of the land. It does not matter whether the building was built by one of the owners or not. They both own it.


  • The consent of all the owners must be sought before any of the joint owner can validly sell any part of all the parcel of land.


  • Where a land is owned by joint owners and one of the owners dies, the property is survived by the remaining owner or owners as the case may be. The implication of this principle of law is that a joint owner cannot pass the property or a portion of it to his children or survivors.


  • Where a joint ownership of land is created, the joint owners enjoy the land together. Thus, no one person can claim ownership to a part of the land, to the exclusion of other joint owners.



How can you now buy a Land Jointly Owned?



Before you can purchase a land jointly owned by 2 or more people, the consent of all the joint owners must be sought. Failure to seek that consent nullifies the sale.



Where a purchaser of land buys from one of the joint owner without the consent of the others, he has simply bought nothing and the title is VERY defective in all respect. This is against the principle of law thus: ‘nemo dat quod non habet’-which means you cannot give what you do not have’.



The same principle also applies to any improvement made on the land owned jointly. So where for example, one of the owners builds a house on the land, he cannot sell the house alone simply because he built it all by himself.






Sometime ago, a client engaged our services to verify a land around Badore which was said to have a certificate of occupancy as its title documents. We asked for a copy of the document for sighting which we were graciously obliged. On perusal of the document, we discovered that the document was issued in the name of two persons who happened to be a married couple; meanwhile we were dealing with the wife alone.



We requested to see the husband to confirm if he was aware of the pending transaction and if he consented to it. This request was declined by the woman stating that the husband was very ill and she didn’t want to bother him with such thing.



We stood our grounds by insisting we speak to the man or we won’t be able to proceed with the transaction. After much persistence we were eventually told that the husband just passed away hence the property has now completely pass to the to the wife.



Unknowing to them that we were more than up to the task, we informed them that in the event of death of a co-owner of a property, certain requirements must be met to proceed to transaction.



In situations where one of the joint owners of the property dies and the surviving owner wants to affect a sale of the property, there are certain documents that must be provided by this survivor to the prospective buyer. These are:



  • Death certificate of the deceased owner must be provided as proof of death.


  • Sworn affidavit attested to by the surviving owner stating that the complete ownership rights over the property has now passed to him solely.


  • And other related documents


In other words, word of the mouth is not enough to proof that a previous joint ownership has now become sole ownership as a result of death of the co-owner.



Management of Joint Ownership of Property:   


In other to avoid the unpleasant consequences that mismanagement of joint ownership might cause. The following is hereby recommended:


    • Upon the acquisition of the land or property jointly, consult a lawyer to prepare a Deed of partition immediately, so that all persons involved would know their limits and convert same to individual ownership.


    • Where partition is not possible, it is recommended that terms for management and final sale and sharing, be well documented by a lawyer to avoid crisis.


    • The lawyer would also need to include in the management contract, a provision that would enable, a next of kin of one of the joint owners to step into the shoes of the owner upon his death.


    • For the buyer of a property that is jointly owned, there is need to get a lawyer to help investigate the title and to seek documented consent of all the joint owner of the property.


    • Where the sale is completed, the lawyer must ensure that all the joint owners sign as vendors to avoid future law suits