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When Ex Changes Locks on Jointly Owned Property

By: Imogen Jones LLB (hons) - Updated: 27 Oct 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
Ex Change Locks Locks Property Home

The home that you enjoyed together as partners is now being used to demonstrate the breakdown of the relationship…before you take steps that you could regret, take time to consider your position and what you can do.

What is Property, and do I have Joint Ownership?

When lawyers talk about property being 'jointly owned' in the housing context it means two or more people who hold legal title to the property. More often than not, this will be the family home. You will know if you have joint ownership if your name is on the legal title to the house, which is registered with the Land Registry. If there is still a mortgage on your property, the title deeds will be held by the mortgage company.

The Reality of the Situation

If both you and your ex are named on the title of the property, both of you have rights over and to the property; this includes being able to change the locks.

There is not a lot to stop an owner of a property changing locks. The problems arise when one joint owner deprives another of access to a property. The most common depravation is if keys are not provided to the house once the locks have been changed.

Your Options

Before taking recourse to formal legal proceedings or involving the police, consider what steps you can take to resolve the situation amicably:

1. A Polite Letter – Try writing a polite letter to request access. While this understandably might not be your first instinct it could possibly assist you, should matters need to escalate, if other methods of resolution have been exhausted before you embark on formal enforced access to the house.

2. An Occupation Order – In the case that you are still living in the home and using it as your residence, you may be able to apply to the court for an Occupation Order. If the Occupation Order is granted you will be allowed access to the property to live in the house, come and go and utilise the facilities. You will have to keep up payments for the mortgage or bills, most likely in the same proportions as before the breakdown of the relationship. If the locks have been changed, the relationship has broken down to such a degree that an Occupation Order will be a hardship for both parties. Occupation Orders are often very prescriptive, including but not limited to designated times for kitchen or bathroom access. However, this might be the only option for those parties unable to afford another property or those unable to reside with friends or family.

3. Ask the Police to Accompany You – If you are living elsewhere when the locks are changed following the breakdown of the relationship, you can ask the police to accompany you to the house while you remove items that are yours. You must be able to prove that you are allowed access to the property. Ownership of common items are likely to be disputed, so this is best sorted out away from the home environment, especially if children are likely to be there when you come over. Clothes, personal keepsakes and personal documents are usually the items that are removed.

4. Sell the House – Selling the house is usually the last option. This is not a light decision to make and, depending on where you are in terms of your separation proceedings, you may have already discussed this with each other. If you are unsure about taking steps to sell the home the advice would be to seek advice from a legal representative. There are many different orders and different personal circumstances will affect the decision taken.

The courts' primary consideration will be the welfare of any children. The court will consider the need to keep the children in the most stable environment possible. This does not mean that they will ignore you or marginalise your concerns.

Try To Stay Calm

Avoid antagonising the situation; storming round to the property and acting in an unreasonable or threatening manner is unlikely to endear you to a court. It may seem obvious but in times of emotional stress instinct has the tendency to override any other thoughts and you may act out of character.

Take time to consider your options, and remove yourself from any situation that is likely to cause a confrontation, even if the other party instigated the argument. This is not giving in or backing down, but preserving your position and taking time to consider the most reasonable course of action.

Need more?

You could try and get someone to help in drawing up a separation agreement - your ex can review it with someone else helping as a kind of mediator. Read our two part guide:
Financial arrangements part 1 and Part 2 then take a look at the sample separation agreement to see if this might work for both of you.

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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Even my own mothersaid with the time frame (I would psychology mess up the child )if i went to court now after 10 years off no contact .and would cause only conflict and (beliefs) no good would come from it and I would get myself in trouble because she told me herself I love you son but you are not father material You are just like your own father .and it’s best to leave the poor women alone and the child .and for me to keep living the way I do because it (suits me) it was like a (family intervention )my (brothers )strongly believe this is the best for everyone.and I do hold (stock )in what they say because they no me (better then anyone gods truth ).so will take this advice .they made me feel better about the whole (child thing ).so as (my family said )everything as worked out perfectly bro stop (worrying).she the mother got what she wanted me out off the picture and you never had to pay child support and we all no deep down (you never wanted rights gods truth bro admit the truth ).and yeah it spoke volumes to me and they are( right ).and for me to stop (acting )like my other family members because you where (nothing )like them why act like them .we will get you help so we have my son and brother back .(forget the child for god sake she wants nothing to do with you .they are wise people my family.
C.laurie - 27-Oct-19 @ 8:26 PM
Truth is I share house at (38 )and (enjoy it ).but there is a (down side )when you have a teenage daughter and no spare room for her and the only way for visitation is though the courts in (reality).and make matters worse the child is 14 or 15 now .i have been told I am to old for this lifestyle and need to get my own place before court action so the child has own room .but the child is 14 or 15 now I am not( smart men )but I think they can make up there own minds at that age and I haven’t spoken to her sence she was 5 I tried to explain this to my family and said like even if I gotmy own place with no contact for 10 years it’s a bit weird I think plus a (very long process )and I don’t no if it’s (fair )on the child with (time frame )and it could do more harm then good .it is very hard to put (emotions aside )and make the right decision .but I decided I like my lifestyle and will keep living this way .and let her mother and daughter get on with there life’s
C.laurie - 27-Oct-19 @ 6:02 PM
@tyu.@pigeon.i,wish on the (holy bible )I call social services on the mother off my child and add my daughter removed from (her care) not out spite or jealously but for my (daughters safety and for her to have better upbringing with me ).and yes chronic heart failure disease runs in my family and heaven to be hold I have had the test .and I have same disease so I need to keep my stress levels down .i can honestly say with the time frame i am walking away for my health because her mother be loving it if I was dead .
C.laurie - 27-Oct-19 @ 3:31 PM
I split with my ex 3 weeks ago, since then he’s been abusive towards me in front of my children, called social services trying to get kids taken off me and now he’s changed the locks, I have none of my children’s things it’s been 2 weeks and we’re living on a bedroom floor at my friends with no items... what can I do? I need stability for my children.
Tyu - 27-Oct-19 @ 9:43 AM
I left an abusive partnership and moved out left my daughter with mother she is 16 next February .I have severed all ties with ex partner with the mortgage .she as a new man living in my house and changed the locks how can I get her to sell up as I want my share of house .I have chronic heart failure and need my money to live what I have of my life left please help
Pigeon - 7-Sep-19 @ 8:01 PM
My x partner of the past 10 years is demanding that I pay half the mortgage, she threw me out approx 8 months ago and I had to move into rented property, I personally don't think it's right that I pay half of the mortgage
Mick - 4-Sep-19 @ 2:19 PM
My husband and I have separatedbut still living in the same house , I booked a holiday for us to both go on last year but unfortunately he doesn’t want to go or stay in our marriage , can I go and leave the marital home for 10 days with out him having rights over the house whilst I’m gone or can he claim I’ve left the marital home as I’m away on holiday.
Sis - 14-Aug-19 @ 2:13 PM
I've been separated from my ex wife for over 4 years, she has been living in the marital home since and her new partner moved in over 12 months ago and they had agreed with the bank to pay £1000 a month which was to include arrears, but then recently found out they hadn't been paying anything, I asked the mortgage company to take the house back 4 years ago as the arrears are now approx £45k, my ex wife has also moved out of the house now into a rented house but she still has the keys for the house, I have received a court letter yesterday repossession order, where do I stand in sorting this out, I've rang the mortgage company several times to ask them to repossess the house and I've also rang ombusman and numerous debt help lines and not been able to get any answers, I've also been through a solicitors at the start of the separation, but my ex said ar the time she sent want the house selling and she was to move back in with our daughter so I didnt have a leg to stand on, my daughter is now 16 year and moving to London as she has been accepted in dance college which is going to cost me £1000 per month and that includes college fees and accommodation. I'd appreciate it if anyone could give me some advise, I'm physically and mentally and financially ready to break. Also once they take the house back are we both liable to pay the arrears/shortfalls and do I legally have to pay any arrears when i have no assets at all and all my wages go on maintenance/college fees/accommodation and then my own rent and costs of living I have nothing left. Thank you in advance.
Madmax - 9-Aug-19 @ 5:10 PM
Just completed divorce case and paid lump sum to ex but he is still in the house. Am I within my right to change the locks?
Phil - 5-Jul-19 @ 6:31 PM
My partner & I have been separated for over a year we are not married. In this time she has become involved with some very negative people & deveped a drug addiction. She has undesirable people staying in the house. The children have been removed & now living with me & my mother in law. The Pol have been to the house multiple times causing damage. We agreed the house would be sold but it’s impossible with her living there & the house in the current state. I finally managed to get her to move her stuff out but now I’ve found out she has broken back into the house. If I phone the police they say there is nothing they can do because she is joint owner. I need to get this house fixed up & sold so my children have a new home what can I do I feel so stuck??
John - 29-May-19 @ 11:09 PM
Me and my wife have been apart for about 15 months and I still have belongings in the shed am I allowed to remove the locks which I haven’t got keys for and take my stuff out please
Tuffty - 17-Mar-19 @ 5:37 PM
Me and my ex partner have been separated and I have moved out of the home as someone was about to buy telhe property unfortunately it has not gone through and I now do not live in the property but my ex partner does full time. Do I need to still pay for the property. The property is joint owned by us both but the mortgage comes out of my ex partners bank account
Ladams - 15-Jan-19 @ 11:40 PM
I decided to finally move out of a joint home I have with my ex (after an incident. we had not been together for over a year anyway). We have a daughter of which it's 60/40 to me. We have a joint equal mortgage which we both paid equally. I still have some of my possessions at the house. I want to leave them there in my storage closet and room until the house is sold. Can he throw my stuff out ? can he force me to take my possessions out of the joint home just because I moved out? I'm also trying to force a home sale but he refuses.
vics - 30-Nov-18 @ 4:34 PM
Hi I wonder if you can help just need some advice on housing. I own my home it's mortgaged & my ex is on the morgage as a named person. We have been divorced for 4 yrs & I live in the house with my 3 teenage kids aged 17,18,13. My ex rents elsewhere but has decided that he can't afford to keep renting & wants to move back to the house, can he do that, apparently his being getting some advice from his solicitor saying he can, just needs to get a court order or something, his also married now & the wife will be coming to. I really don't want this to happen & don't wannaoo sell my home. Hope you can help...thanks
Ash - 31-Oct-18 @ 12:05 PM
Hi I have split from my ex we were never married but have children. We rented a social housing house a joint tennants and my name is still on the agreement. She has contacted a solicitor and is trying to force me to remove my name. Can she do this and what are my rights. Paul
Tackledodger - 29-Oct-18 @ 5:54 PM
Hi, me and my wife have been married for 5 years, we have had a joint mortgage on the current home for just over 2 years. She cheated on my in which our marriage then broke down, she then carried on seeing the new guy whilst we were living together which was very stressful for myself. I then went to stay at my brothers as I could not handle living with her whilst she was with him. I was still paying all of the mortgage, she then abandoned the home to move in with her new boyfriend so I moved back in the house and carried on paying the mortgage to make sure we don’t lose the house. We are currently going through the divorce in which we are looking to sell, she has now changed her ways and is threatening to move back in with her partner even tho I am here and she has not contributed a penny, before and after the breakdown. We have a child which we have shared care for. This is detrimental to our child as it would be confusing for her to go though all this again. Is there anyway I can stop her from moving back and then just proceed to divorce and sell the house?
G - 18-Oct-18 @ 5:38 AM
HI.MY SON IS STILL ON THE DEEDS OF A PROPERTY WITH HIS EX WIFE. SHE WILL NOT SELL THE PROPERTY.HE OWNS A FLAT TOO, SO CANNOT BUY ANOTHER PROPERTY WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND WHO HE WANTSTO MARRY.CAN YOU SUGGEST ANYTHING? IF HE SOLDTHE OTHER PROPERTY, WOULD HE BE ABLE TO GET ANOTHER MORTGAGE? THANK YOU.
RIO - 7-Oct-18 @ 9:30 AM
Hi i was drinking .had mental breakdown .threatend my husband which i was arested.put bail till court few weeks.charged with breaking bail.he send me a.legal letter from himself saying im no come.near my home its joint ownership.as im still no in court yet have i right go home when case over.he said he be ringing police .its my.home for 34 years
Pmonica - 27-Jul-18 @ 7:16 PM
Rick - Your Question:
Hi me and the wife seperated in Dec 17 after 17 yrs of marriage. she said she didn't love me anymore, we jointly pay the mortgage on our property and she's now filed for divorce on unreasonable behaviour. She said her solicitor has said she can change the locks on the property even without my permission, but everywhere I've read says she's not allowed to do so and I have the legal right to move back in if I wish. As im still paying the mortgage and also rent on a temporary house. And im struggling, I can't get legal advice in writing without paying in excess of £250 per hour which is frustrating! Where do I stand on this matter as she insists her solicitor is in the right to say she can change the locks. There is no history ofviolence,drugs,alcohol involved and no court order against me.

Our Response:
You have the right to stay in the home if you're married, in a civil partnership or on the 'title deeds' the document that proves who owns your home, please see the link here.
SeparatedDads - 27-Jul-18 @ 2:47 PM
Hi me and the wife seperated in Dec 17 after 17 yrs of marriage. she said she didn't love me anymore, we jointly pay the mortgage on our property and she's now filed for divorce on unreasonable behaviour. She said her solicitor has said she can change the locks on the property even without my permission, but everywhere I've read says she's not allowed to do so and I have the legal right to move back in if I wish. As im still paying the mortgage and also rent on a temporary house. And im struggling, I can't get legal advice in writing without paying in excess of £250 per hour which is frustrating! Where do I stand on this matter as she insists her solicitor is in the right to say she can change the locks. There is no history ofviolence,drugs,alcohol involved and no court order against me.
Rick - 27-Jul-18 @ 12:44 PM
I live with my bf and my 2 sons of 19 and 24.He owns a third of property and me 2 thirds.He is an alcoholic who has been abusive verbally and a little physical over the years on many occasionsPolice called twice.Last year it all came to a head.... after he was arrested drunk and disorderly andbparticularly nasty to me and he gave up drinking.We carried on but in april he decided to drink again.Just a beer or two.At that point I decided I have had enough and it's over.I cannot go back to that unpredictable life as he us an Alcoholic who cannot drink in.moderatiin.I am going to remortage and buy him out.The problem is it will be a few months as I am waiting for some inheritance money to do this.So tonight he is very drunk and threatening.I do not feel safe in my own house. Had go bedroom holding door shut . My son came home early from his shift to make sure I am ok.My question is...can I tell him to leave.... with few weeks notice.And then if he doesn't do this change the locks.In sept my son will be back uni and the other wont be here. They are very worried to leave me as when he's drunk he will turn nasty.Grateful for any advice please.
Lin - 6-Jul-18 @ 11:31 PM
@some peope - it shouldn't affect your finances......but be warned she could go to court for an occupation order and once she is in the house if she is the main carer of your kids then she will be given preference. It puts you in a dodgy situation as a court can actually sign the house over to her until the kids are 18. Get some advice as she could be moving back....with an agenda.
Mitch78 - 2-Jul-18 @ 9:45 AM
My wife moved out a year ago as she couldn't live with me anymore, me working 90 hr weeks and her going out with her friends all the time, not doing any housework or cooking for the kids was bringing her down. Her pre-separation London boyfriend who paid her rent when she moved out has decided he's not going to pay it anymore and she's told me she's now moving back in. Keeping her boyfriend and we will just live together. This is crazy as she has been violent towards me on occasions and I can't see anyway this can possibly work. However as it's a jointly owned property (trying to sell it at the moment) solicitor I can't stop her. I'm the middle of sorting out the finances, so this really isn't helping. If I change the locks will this affect the finances? I know I shouldn't but I just want to delay everything in the hope of finding a buyer before she moves back in.
some peope - 1-Jul-18 @ 2:28 AM
Maria - Your Question:
Hi please any advise will be great. I split up from an ex boyfriend 10 years ago we had a house with morgage and still now my name is on Morgage due to him not earning enough to take my name off. Now 10 years later the house is been repossessed and I don’t know where I stand. As it was in negitive equidty, I have not payed towards the house for ten years as I was not living there and it’s just gone on this long without me been able to take my name off. I now live with my new boyfriend 3 years with a baby it’s his home his Morgage. Thanks Maria

Our Response:
After the mortgage lender takes your property into possession they will sell the property for the best price that can reasonably be obtained. If the sale does not generate enough money to pay off the money owed to the lender, then you will find out the amount of money owed. A lender may or may not wish to seek repayment of the shortfall debt.
SeparatedDads - 26-Jun-18 @ 2:37 PM
Hi please any advise will be great. I split up from an ex boyfriend 10 years ago we had a house with morgage and still now my name is on Morgage due to him not earning enough to take my name off. Now 10 years later the house is been repossessed and I don’t know where I stand. As it was in negitive equidty, I have not payed towards the house for ten years as I was not living there and it’s just gone on this long without me been able to take my name off. I now live with my new boyfriend 3 years with a baby it’s his home his Morgage. Thanks Maria
Maria - 25-Jun-18 @ 9:27 PM
@France's- not if the 'soon to be ex wife' jointly owns the property.
Chris - 19-Jun-18 @ 2:20 PM
My partners soon to be ex wife as the final part of the divorce is within six weeks of being final, she left him almost two years ago and left the three children behind as well.She stopped paying the mortgage almost a year ago but still walks into the home if and when she pleases. Are we able to change the locks ? Plus does she still have the right to store her stuff in the home ?He has put an offer to her but she has refused this ? They youngest child is under 10 .Please keep my name annonimus
France's - 17-Jun-18 @ 3:00 PM
BTM - Your Question:
My partner and I have split up two weeks ago and she has locked me out of my home. My partner and I have bought a house together with her parents and we were planning to all move there in July when an extension is finished. My partner and her two children, (aged 9 and 10), temporarily moved into my rented place in January this year. We had been together for 2.5 years and I decided to end it due to it being controlled too much.I rent this home from my mother, I pay all the bills for her and it is my registered address. I have previously removed some of my important items last week, but yesterday discover that she has locked me out - Does she have the right to do this?I have found temporary accommodation for a month and I have asked her politely to move out of the house to the new home, (which is perfectly OK to use as the extension doesn’t infringe on the main building), by the end of the Easter holidays. What can I do if this doesn’t happen? What are my rights here? How do I get the property back?Kind regards, BTM.

Our Response:
As outlined in the article, a letter giving your ex a deadline should be sent. A solicitors letter may have more impact here. If your ex ignores you, then you would have to apply to court for an occupation order. It is highly likely you will get your house back. However, it will cost if you have to take the matter to court.
SeparatedDads - 3-Apr-18 @ 11:58 AM
My partner and I have split up two weeks ago and she has locked me out of my home. My partner and I have bought a house together with her parents and we were planning to all move there in July when an extension is finished. My partner and her two children, (aged 9 and 10), temporarily moved into my rented place in January this year. We had been together for 2.5 years and I decided to end it due to it being controlled too much. I rent this home from my mother, I pay all the bills for her and it is my registered address. I have previously removed some of my important items last week, but yesterday discover that she has locked me out - Does she have the right to do this? I have found temporary accommodation for a month and I have asked her politely to move out of the house to the new home, (which is perfectly OK to use as the extension doesn’t infringe on the main building), by the end of the Easter holidays. What can I do if this doesn’t happen? What are my rights here? How do I get the property back? Kind regards, BTM.
BTM - 2-Apr-18 @ 8:32 AM
@Mark - If the house is jointly owned, then you have every right to move into this house. If your ex objects she can take you to court. But I'm sure the court wouldn't object. It's unlikely your ex would go this far anyway.
Abs^ - 26-Mar-18 @ 11:00 AM
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