Shared Home Ownership in Ontario: A Viable Path for Diverse Ownership Structures

In recent years, the concept of shared home ownership has gained traction across Ontario as an innovative solution to the challenges of the real estate market. Across Canada, 6% of homeowners co-own a property with someone other than their spouse.

This ownership model offers individuals the opportunity to co-own property, which can make homeownership more accessible and affordable. Particularly in high-demand areas, shared ownership allows individuals to pool resources, share costs, and enjoy the benefits of property ownership that might otherwise be out of reach. However, it also introduces complexities such as potential disputes, intricate agreements, and financial interdependence.

Types of Shared Ownership Structures

There are primarily two structures of shared ownership recognized in Ontario:

  1. Joint Tenancy: This form involves equal ownership shares with the right of survivorship, meaning that upon the death of one owner, ownership automatically passes to the surviving owner(s). This structure is ideal for close relationships or family members due to its simplicity and the implications following an owner’s death.
  2. Tenancy in Common: Unlike joint tenancy, ownership shares in this structure can be unequal, and there is no right of survivorship. Shares pass according to the owner’s will or estate, making it a flexible option for investors or friends co-buying property.

Choosing the right structure depends on the relationship between the owners, their long-term intentions, and their financial contributions.

Legal Agreements in Shared Ownership

To mitigate the complexities and potential conflicts inherent in shared ownership, a detailed legal agreement is essential. Such agreements typically outline the ownership structure, financial obligations, management and maintenance responsibilities, usage rights, and procedures for enforcing the agreement and resolving disputes.

Key components of a shared ownership agreement include:

Ownership Structure

This component of the agreement specifies whether the ownership is structured as joint tenancy or tenancy in common. It clearly delineates each owner’s stake in the property, highlighting whether shares are equal or can vary. This distinction is critical as it impacts the legal implications upon the death of an owner, affecting inheritance and the transfer of property shares.

Financial Clarity

A comprehensive breakdown of financial responsibilities is crucial. This includes each owner’s contribution towards the mortgage, property taxes, insurance premiums, and regular maintenance costs. The agreement should also cover how future financial obligations, such as major renovations or emergency repairs, will be managed. Provisions for handling increases in property taxes or unforeseen expenses should be clearly outlined to avoid disputes.

Management and Maintenance

This section assigns responsibilities for daily management tasks, such as who handles utility payments or coordinates with service providers. Long-term maintenance planning is also covered, specifying how decisions about major renovations or repairs are made, the process for funding these activities, and how costs are split. It should include details on the establishment and management of a reserve fund for unexpected repairs or necessary upgrades.

Usage Rights

The agreement defines the rights of each co-owner regarding the use of the property. This includes specifying exclusive areas (if any) and common areas, rules regarding the rental or subletting of the property, conditions under which guests can stay, and guidelines on pets and business use. This section ensures that all parties have a clear understanding of their rights and obligations, helping to prevent conflicts related to property use.

Exit Strategies and Succession Planning

Detailed procedures for an owner who wishes to sell their share or exit the agreement are crucial. This includes outlining any rights of first refusal, buyout options, and the methods for valuing an owner’s share. Succession planning details what happens if an owner dies, focusing on how their share is handled, whether it can be inherited directly, or if it must be sold. The agreement should also address scenarios such as divorce or financial insolvency, ensuring there is a clear plan that protects both the exiting owner and the remaining co-owners.

Preventing and Resolving Disputes

Regularly scheduled meetings should be mandated to discuss property management, upcoming expenses, and any potential concerns, ensuring that all parties are consistently informed and engaged. Additionally, maintaining meticulous records of decisions, financial transactions, and property changes is crucial. These records not only provide transparency but also serve as a reference to resolve any potential misunderstandings or disagreements about past events.

When disputes do arise, a structured resolution mechanism outlined in the ownership agreement can guide co-owners through the process. The first step should typically involve an informal negotiation among the parties directly involved, aiming to resolve the dispute amicably. If these initial discussions fail, the agreement should require mediation as a next step, involving a neutral third party to facilitate a resolution. Should mediation not resolve the issue, arbitration can be employed, where a neutral arbitrator renders a binding decision. This step is more formal and conclusive, providing a clear outcome if consensus cannot be reached. As a last resort, the agreement can allow for legal actions; however, this is generally discouraged due to the potential for high costs and lasting damage to interpersonal relationships among co-owners.

Additionally, the agreement should include well-defined buy-out clauses, which specify the conditions under which an owner can sell their share or be bought out by the other owners. These clauses help manage transitions smoothly, ensuring that owners can exit the agreement without causing significant disruption to the remaining owners. This addition further solidifies the framework for dispute resolution by providing a clear exit strategy, which can be especially valuable in resolving disputes tied to changes in ownership or the personal circumstances of the co-owners.


Shared home ownership in Ontario presents a practical solution for those looking to enter the housing market through collective means. While it offers financial benefits and access to more properties, the complexity of such arrangements necessitates careful planning and legal foresight. By establishing clear agreements and structures, co-owners can protect their investments and enjoy the benefits of homeownership in a cooperative and harmonious manner.

Michael Abrams, Kelly Santini LLP

Michael Abrams
Partner & Certified Specialist in Real Estate Law