Joint tenancy contracts for Muslim home owners recognised as religiously valid

Joint owners of a property have the option of selecting either joint tenancy or tenancy-in-common contracts.
Joint owners of a property have the option of selecting either joint tenancy or tenancy-in-common contracts.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Muslims who co-own a property in Singapore under a joint tenancy contract, will now have that agreement recognised as religiously valid, without the hassle of additional paperwork.

This means that when one of the owners die, the surviving owner can automatically absorb the former's share of the property - known as the right of survivorship - without having to present documents. These documents include nuzriah or hibah ruqba, which are vows made by someone to give part or all of his or her wealth to another party.

The Fatwa Committee of Singapore issued the fatwa, or religious advisory, on Monday (May 13), the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said in a press release.

Joint owners of a property have the option of selecting either joint tenancy or tenancy-in-common contracts.

Under a tenancy-in-common contract, each co-owner owns a separate share of the property that is passed on to a beneficiary in line with Islamic inheritance law, upon his or her death. In the joint tenancy contract, the share owned by the deceased goes to the other co-owner.

"The Fatwa Committee advises prospective home owners to consider carefully both options and understand fully the implications on the surviving joint tenant as well as beneficiaries," Muis said.

The Islamic body added that a joint tenancy contract is "typically the better option as it safeguards the interest of one's immediate family in the event of one's passing and avoids causing serious financial distress and uncertainty".

It noted, however, that there are possible scenarios in which tenancy-in-common contracts may be more appropriate for some families.

For example, some still adhere to the basic Islamic law stated in the Quran, whereby the shares of a co-owner will go back to his or her estate upon the person's death. It will then be distributed according to Islamic inheritance law, such as to his or her children.

The Fatwa Committee reminded owners to make due considerations before choosing the desired type of ownership, said the deputy mufti, Dr Nazirudin Nasir.

Home owners are also encouraged to consult a legal professional before purchasing their property, to clear any doubts and to ensure that no negligence and injustice is inflicted on the surviving party.

In its press release, Muis said the latest fatwa applies in the event that an owner of a joint-tenancy had died before its release, but the surviving owner has yet to sell the property.

Dr Nazirudin said that the Fatwa Committee monitors the outcomes of fatwas issues, and assesses their impact on the Muslim community here, reviewing them when necessary.

This latest review of the fatwa on joint tenancy contracts, which was last reviewed in 2008, followed consultation with industry practitioners, including the Muslim Financial Planners Association and the Muslim Legal Practitioners Committee.

Muis added that the reviewed fatwa does not apply retrospectively to properties which have already been sold, with the proceeds distributed to beneficiaries according to the 2008 fatwa.