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13 MAY 2019
1. The Fatwa Committee of Singapore has issued a fatwa (religious advisory) which now recognises joint tenancy contract as religiously valid, without having to draw up additional documents to effect the right of survivorship. The new fatwa clarifies the implications of both the joint tenancy and tenancy-in-common contracts with regards to the method of the property distribution upon the demise of one of its owners.
2. Under the joint tenancy contract, each of the co-owners together own the whole interest in the property. If one were to buy property under a joint tenancy contract, the right of survivorship applies. This means that upon the death of one of the tenants, the surviving co-tenant would have absolute ownership of the property.
3. Under the tenancy-in-common contract, each co-owner holds a separate and distinct share in the property. The right of survivorship does not apply. Upon the death of a co-owner, his/her share would be passed on to his/her beneficiaries according to the rules of Islamic inheritance law (faraid).
4. An earlier fatwa issued in 1997 had recognised the joint tenancy only as an equal-shared ownership contract under Muslim law. This means that the right of survivorship was not recognised, and the share of one party would revert to his estate upon his death and be subject to distribution to his beneficiaries according to faraid.
5. In 2008, after a review by the Fatwa Committee, a joint tenant could opt to give his/her share to the surviving tenant upon his/her demise by drawing up an additional document (Nuzriah or Hibah Ruqbā) during lifetime. This option allowed the surviving owner to own the property completely after the passing of the joint tenant.
6. Deputy Mufti of Singapore, Dr Nazirudin Nasir said it is part of the Fatwa Committee’s practice to monitor the outcome of fatwas issued and assess its impact on the Muslim community. Where further refinements are necessary, the Fatwa Committee will deliberate and review past opinions in accordance with the principles of Muslim law.
7. The Fatwa Committee has continued to monitor feedback on the fatwa on Joint Tenancy. The Fatwa Committee consulted industry practitioners, including the Muslim Financial Planners Association (MFPA) and the Muslim Legal Practitioners Committee (MLPC). The feedback indicated that challenges and difficulties still persisted even after the issuance of the revised fatwa in 2008.
8. In light of this, Fatwa Committee found that there was a need to eliminate existing difficulties in order to safeguard the interests of the Muslim community, and decided to review the fatwa to address these issues.
The 2019 Fatwa
9. The Fatwa Committee accepts the joint tenancy contract as valid under Muslim law. Accordingly, joint owners have the option of selecting either Joint Tenancy or Tenancy-in-Common contract. With the option of Joint Tenancy and Tenancy-in-Common both being made available, additional documents such as hibah ruqbā or nuzriah are no longer required.
10. 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. By selecting one of these options, the owners agree to meet the conditions and objectives of these agreements that they had made during their lifetime.
11. 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. There are however other possible scenarios that may cause for tenancy-in-common contract to be the more appropriate option for some families.
12. As such, owners must deliberate responsibly and decide on the best choice possible according to their personal circumstances. The Fatwa Committee reminds the community that it is our religious responsibility to ensure that our dependents are financially stable after passing.
13. Deputy Mufti Dr Nazirudin added that the Fatwa Committee would also like to remind owners to make due considerations before choosing the desired type of ownership, and encourage owners to also 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.
14. In the event that an owner of a joint-tenancy house has passed away before this fatwa is released, and the surviving owner has yet to sell the house, then the reviewed fatwa may apply. Surviving joint tenants should discuss amicably with the beneficiaries to find the best way out possible.
15. This fatwa does not apply retrospectively to properties which have already been sold, and where the proceeds have been distributed to beneficiaries in accordance with the 2008 Fatwa.
MAJLIS UGAMA ISLAM SINGAPURA
 These include cases where tenants did not clearly express their intention for the property (for example, for the property to continue to be the matrimonial or family home) by drawing up the additional documents required, resulting in the tenant’s share devolving to his heirs and surviving beneficiaries under faraid. This resulted in cases where the surviving joint tenant was forced to sell the property, causing resulting in hardship due to the loss of shelter.