Real Estate Alphabet Soup: U is for Unities

Miles & Stockbridge P.C.

In my last post, “Real Estate Alphabet Soup: T is for Tenancy” I continued my primer on the “alphabet soup” of real estate. This post continues to stir the “alphabet soup” with the letter “U.”

U is for “Unities”. Under the common law there are four “unities” that are required in order to create certain forms of tenancy. As a bit of a refresher, you may recall from my last post that some of the forms of taking “tenancy” or title to real property include a “joint tenancy” (a tenancy of two or more persons with a right of survivorship) and a “tenancy by the entirety” (a tenancy between spouses with a right of survivorship). In order for a “joint tenancy” or a “tenancy by the entirety” to be valid, the common law requires the existence of four “unities” of title.

The four “unities” include the unity of interest, possession, time and title. And in order to have a valid “tenancy by the entirety” in addition to the “four unities” there is a fifth “unity” required, namely, the unity of person.

The “unity of interest” requires that the interests of co-tenants in a joint tenancy or tenancy by entirety be equal, so that one co-tenant cannot individually encumber his or her share of the property without destroying the unity. So any mortgage, lien or encumbrance must be agreed to by all co-tenants in order to preserve the “unity of interest”.

The “unity of possession” requires the right of each co-owner of the property to have an equal use and possession of the property.

The “unity of time” requires that the interests of the co-tenants must commence or vest at the same moment in time.

The “unity of title” requires that all co-tenants in a joint tenancy, or both spouses in a tenancy by the entirety, acquire their interests under the same title. So co-tenants cannot hold title to the same property under different deeds.

And finally, for a tenancy by the entirety to be valid there is the additional requirement of the “unity of person” between spouses, which follows the common law conception of the institute of marriage joining the spouses to create one person or the “unity of person”.

In my next post, I will move on to the letter “V”, the next letter in this real estate “alphabet soup.”

Opinions and conclusions in this post are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. Any federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written by the author to be used, and cannot be used by the recipient, for the purpose of avoiding penalties which may be imposed on the recipient by the IRS. Please contact the author if you would like to receive written advice in a format which complies with IRS rules and may be relied upon to avoid penalties.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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