Legal information for property buyers and sellers
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Types of rural ownership

The majority of land in New Zealand is owned with fee simple or freehold titles, this is particularly true for rural and lifestyle property. For more information about other types of ownership, please click here for common types of ownership.

Fee simple or freehold titles

Although freehold technically refers to land that’s free of encumbrances, fee simple and freehold are generally used to mean the same thing these days.

Fee simple ownership is the highest form of land ownership available in New Zealand. Practically speaking, it’s because fee simple or freehold ownership allows land owners to make changes to their land and homes without the consent of neighbours and without needing to change the title, as long as the changes are allowable under local planning laws and the Resource Management Act.

Fee simple owners can also register covenants against the certificate of title. A freehold owner might subdivide a property but preserve their privacy or ensure that they retain the view from their home by preventing certain trees from being removed or by restricting the type or size of buildings that can be built on the subdivided block.

Sole ownership vs co-ownership

Sole ownership

Sole ownership means that one person owns and totally controls the property, subject to any applicable legislation.


Co-owners can own the property in two different ways:

Tenants in common can have equal shares, or shares of different sizes. For example, one owner can have a 50% share, one owner can have a 40% share and the remaining owner has a 10% share. This might reflect greater contributions to the purchase price, or the assistance of a relative in purchasing a property.

If an owner dies, their portion of the property can be passed to whoever they choose.

Joint tenants can be married or de facto partners, friends or business associates. Each owner has an equal share.

If an owner dies, the rule of survivorship applies, meaning that the surviving party will own the property and become the sole owner.

Need ownership advice or assistance?

Please contact us about property titles and ownership for your particular sale or purchase or call 0800 PPTYLAW (0800 778 952) or +64 6 3705102 to speak to one of our property law specialists today.