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When Ex Changes Locks on Jointly Owned Property

By: Imogen Jones LLB (hons) - Updated: 4 May 2017 | 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.

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[Add a Comment]
Vuyo - Your Question:
I divorced my husband of sixteen years, he moved out and don't pay the bond anymore either child maintenance which is in process, we are not on talking terms, I have changed the lockers and advised him he never responded. According to our settlement agreement house must be sold, is there a time frame as to when must I sell the house? I am now paying the bond as I do not have any other place to stay. Please help. I am considering to buy him out if possible. Thanks

Our Response:
If the court has not put a time frame on when the house must be sold, then you have no limit. However, if you stall or try to prevent the sale, your ex could take you back to court to force the sale and a time limit will be issued. It is much better to come to a mutual agreement on how you take this matter forward, if you can.
SeparatedDads - 4-May-17 @ 2:11 PM
I divorced my husband of sixteen years, he moved out and don't pay the bond anymore either child maintenance which is in process, we are not on talking terms, I have changed the lockers and advised him he never responded. According to our settlement agreement house must be sold, is there a time frame as to when must I sell the house? I am now paying the bond as I do not have any other place to stay. Please help. I am considering to buy him out if possible. Thanks
Vuyo - 4-May-17 @ 6:20 AM
Mungi - Your Question:
I have divorced my husband 5yrs ago,and left the house which registered on both our names,now he brought another woman.he refuse to sell and share equally,,what must I do??

Our Response:
You would have to seek legal advice about taking the matter to court. A court may be able to force your ex to sell if you feel you are owed equity from the property.
SeparatedDads - 3-May-17 @ 2:48 PM
I have split up from girlfriend and she has been on joint tenancy from 2015 before this I was sole owner. Anyway can she file a court order to sell the house even though I have my friends 3 kids there as she is homeless. What will the court do?
Monty - 30-Apr-17 @ 1:48 PM
I have divorced my husband 5yrs ago,and left the house which registered on both our names,now he brought another woman.he refuse to sell and share equally,,what must i do??
Mungi - 29-Apr-17 @ 9:56 PM
@Petee - It's a no brainer - I would definitely change the locks!
Oll - 2-Feb-17 @ 2:50 PM
Split up with the ex months ago. She left with the kids and refused to contribute to mortgage payments. Now she feels she has the right to come to the house after 7 months and chill with her new partner. Im paying the bills and mortgage by myself. What can I do about her going there when im at work all day. Needs sorting as she's running my bills up and eating my food.
Petee - 2-Feb-17 @ 12:25 AM
Andy - Your Question:
Hi I've been married for 25 years and my wife has called time on our marriage. Juring a short split my wife ended up in a council house where we got back together and she eventually bought. She bought the house in her name as I had gone through bankruptcy and she didn't trust me to be on the morgage. As I paid her in cash towards the bills monthly because of my situation and only in the last three years through the bank which I have statements for.During the time I lived there she also remortgaged and upped my payments accordingly. I received no money from this but she paid off some of her debts.I have registered a interest in the property but do I have any rights to the equity in the house.

Our Response:
If you have been married for a good length of time, and the property is not considered a pre-marital asset then theoretically you would be entitled to a share. However, I can only suggest you seek legal advice in order to explore your options. Much would also depend on whether you have children etc.
SeparatedDads - 20-Jan-17 @ 10:14 AM
Hi I've been married for 25 years and my wife has called time on our marriage. Juring a short split my wife ended up in a council house where we got back together and she eventually bought . She bought the house in her name as I had gone through bankruptcy and she didn't trust me to be on the morgage. As I paid her in cash towards the billsmonthly because of my situation and only in the last three years through the bank which I have statements for . During the time I lived there she also remortgaged and upped my payments accordingly. I received no money from this but she paid off some of her debts . I have registered a interest in the property but do I have any rights to the equity in the house .
Andy - 19-Jan-17 @ 6:58 AM
aj - Your Question:
After years of arguements I moved away (36 years married) last year I want us to go to meadiation to arrange financial terms but she refuses to speak to me and wants to go for desertion after 2years I have not paid any money towards the morgage since last year advice please

Our Response:
If you can't come to an agreement between you, or via mediation, then you would have to seek legal advice regarding this in order to explore your options.
SeparatedDads - 19-Dec-16 @ 12:53 PM
After years of arguements I moved away (36 years married) last year I want us to go to meadiation to arrange financial terms but she refuses to speak to me and wants to go for desertion after 2years I have not paid any money towards the morgage since last year advice please
aj - 17-Dec-16 @ 11:27 AM
I am separated and not allowed to enter the FMH. The wife will not mediate or anything. The FMH is mortgage free. Divorce is under way. I have now been sent a list of so called estimates for"dire need of repair and renovation". These are new kitchen, shower room, rewire and new lounge floor and SWA cable to be run to an outbuilding. Many of this is NOT essential and just a way of refitting the house. Her solicitor has taken the cost from her Form e and expects me to pay 50%. Do I have to pay for these? I don't have the money.
DaddyB - 1-Dec-16 @ 6:07 AM
Mymateken - Your Question:
Looking for a little guidance here folks. Me and my ex brought a house together in 2001. Both names on the mortgage. But she left in 2009, leaving behind two small children at the time. I have a residential order for both children, so that bit is sorted. My question is, she has never paid any mortgage payments at all, I have paid every single payment since we brought the house, and it was me who found the deposit. I did try to get her of the mortgage in 2013, but my mortgage company refused to remove her, ie refused the transfer of equity, due to both of use having a bad credit rating. My question is, once my youngest son turns 18, and she comes after her share of the house, what percentage will she be entitled too? I have a email from her from 2009 to the mortgage company stating she hasn't paid anything towards the mortgage since she left.

Our Response:
We cannot estimate what your ex may be entitled to as every case is different. Therefore, I can only suggest you seek legal advice to explore your options. If you have residency of the children and you can prove your ex has paid very little into the house, then you may have a case. However, unless your ex was willing to agree she has no claim on the house through the likes of family mediation and/or arbitration, then the matter would have to go through court for the court to decide.
SeparatedDads - 14-Nov-16 @ 1:54 PM
Looking for a little guidance here folks. Me and my ex brought a house together in 2001. Both names on the mortgage. But she left in 2009, leaving behind two small children at the time. I have a residential order for both children, so that bit is sorted. My question is, she has never paid any mortgage payments at all, I have paid every single payment since we brought the house, and it was me who found the deposit. I did try to get her of the mortgage in 2013, but my mortgage company refused to remove her, ie refused the transfer of equity, due to both of use having a bad credit rating. My question is, once my youngest son turns 18, and she comes after her share of the house, what percentage will she be entitled too? I have a email from her from 2009 to the mortgage company stating she hasn't paid anything towards the mortgage since she left.
Mymateken - 13-Nov-16 @ 10:47 PM
Long story, I met a man who was 27 years old when I had just turned 16 and left home ,having issues with my folks. Staying with a gf, she threw me out of her appt [never knew why] and he said "put your stuff in my car and Ill find you a place to stay" I was then obligated to this man, or felt I was . I thought he caredabout me , even though I didnt like him that much, I thought i could make it work. We bounced around a bit then a got an appt. soon as we did , the beating and knocking around, name calling, women sleeping in our bed, being gones for days , started. I tried to leave a couple times, no place to go, no money, never finished school. he would beg me to come back say how he would make it better . So, id go back. Even thugh by this time I knew what kind of monster he was. I got a car to get a job, was late home one night ans he smashed it up with a crow bar. No car. No job. I learned if people were around he was less likely to beat me, and the name calling I could handle. We moved far from his home town and I convinced him to takea job where I would only see him every few months. I thought in the bck of my mind I would be able to work, save money and finally get away . I never let him know what i was thinking , because I didnt know what he would do.Then, I wound up prgnant :(And stayed, thinking this might be what was suppose to happen all along . And he was always ok with the kid, well physically anyway. Anyway, right after my baby was born we bought a piece of property that had part of a house built , put in power and water etc. Yes , he paid for a lot of it . But when we went to sign the papers on the property he didnt want it in his name , we argued back and forth and he said "the place is for you and child " put it in your name. So we did. I went to the notary with the man I bought the place from and signed TONS of papers infront of notarized witnesses that were then filed with the county. After the initial work on the place he didnt help me with anything , no maintnance, his name was not on the mortgage, we never had joint checking accounts and the last 10-15 years we never went or did anything together. He was suppose to move out , but he never would. In that time another piece of property was bought in HIS name only . The mental abuse got to the point where I was sleeping fully clothed with pepper spray and I finally left . I have no contact orders in place now. Anyway, I left the house and he contacted me saying he was leaving and he didnt want the house. So he was there appr 3 weeks packing all his stuff. 2 trucks and 20 ft trailer . He took tools, guns, a tractor, wood stove ..and he had the prop and his truck in his name. I have not seen him 2 years , even though he has tried . I talked to a lawyer in 2015 and he said the house was mine to do as I see fit , that he could fight it but it would be very expensive with up front costs and that when he was done with him "the lawyer" would have this person oweing me money. I
scared - 8-Nov-16 @ 1:00 AM
I am currently going through a bitter divorce with ex who is pretending he lives at marital home but in fact has been living with his partner the past two years and since July my eldest daughter and two sons are infact living at property were she claims working tax credit at but does not pay rent to my ex . Her tax credit forms state it's only her and boys living there and he still lies and changed locks to property refusing me a key although my right was registered on land regestry and I was in a 25 year marriage to him . He has informed me after I've told him I do not give him permission to video me when I had a key that he had been secretly videoing all along and unless I agree to him continuing to do so I can't have a key to property . He's refused to give my mail for over two years and allowed demands for a debt to get to a serious point opened my private mail contacted bayliffs sending them to my new address which the court bayliffs confirmed he wrote to them . He's saying I'm not intitled to half the contents as I had a few items already when infact he was aware of about 3 items I had . He makes constant alligations I stole from my own home and refuses to provide a key what can I do he's wrecking my nerves and quite Ritchie compared to me as was found to have committed fraud having faked my signature on loan forms meaning we had to get a professional hand writing expert who validated its not my signature please advise as my lawyer does not appear to be acting on this
Jen - 5-Nov-16 @ 1:12 PM
Hi, I am going through separation from my wife of six years. She was the bread winner of the family and I struggled financially throughout. Now that we don't get along she says I should move out of her house. I agreed to stay away for the night upon the police being called because If it had dragged on the children might have noticed. Now she locks me out and the police say I have no right to be there. She wouldn't agree to any of the terms I proposed because she thinks once I'm out I'll have to sue her. She knows I can not afford to. How do I convince the police that I have the right to stay till a solution is reached either amicably or through the courts without upsetting the peace? Is there some standard document I could print to show them? Do I indeed have any right to stay until we reach an agreement?
TM - 24-Oct-16 @ 6:38 PM
zippo - Your Question:
Im on police bail at the moment not to contact my wife iv been told she is sending my post back to sender can she do this or is it illegal she is living at the house which we jointly own

Our Response:
She is well within her rights to return the mail to sender if you are not currently living at the house and you are not allowed contact.
SeparatedDads - 21-Oct-16 @ 11:00 AM
@James While this is a good idea in principle, there are many variations which means each case has to be considered individually. By issuing a blanket or mandatory law that every father should see their kids would mean fathers who might be violent or abusive would have access to their kids........ and that is not such a good idea. Jim.
JCH82 - 20-Oct-16 @ 2:41 PM
Im on police bail at the moment not to contact my wife iv been told she is sending my post back to sender can she do this or is it illegal she is living at the house which we jointly own
zippo - 20-Oct-16 @ 11:17 AM
Why have dad's not got the same rights as mum's....it's terrible and we as dads need a new law stating that no mother can stop the father from seeing their kids and there should be a minimum and maximum days of access available...fines should be imposed for late arrivals etc etc
James - 20-Oct-16 @ 12:22 AM
W - Your Question:
I need help on this. Me and my x have ties to my house. She hasn't been in this house for 5 years. She still have stuff in here and for 5 years she still pays the lights that's all I take care of the rest. Now her son feels that his mom name on the title gives him the right to stay here. What can I do to get him out.

Our Response:
You don't say how old her son is and how long he has been living in the house with you and under what agreement, which makes it difficult to answer your question. Therefore, you would need to seek legal advice regarding this.
SeparatedDads - 3-Oct-16 @ 10:44 AM
I need help on this. Me and my x have ties to my house. She hasn't been in this house for 5 years.. She still have stuff in here and for 5 years she still pays the lights that's all I take care of the rest. Now her son feels that his mom name on the title gives him the right to stay here. What can I do to get him out...
W - 2-Oct-16 @ 3:47 AM
Fedup - Your Question:
My children live in England with their mother my ex wife. I live in Belfast. I have always contributed 20 percent of my net earnings to her, and contributed to significant purchases such as both new school uniforms, school trips and also all holidays and travel to collect and return the children.She continues to not contribute to significant costs such as school trips and expects me to fully pay for them as well as all the other contributions that I make.As a nrp can I approach the Csa/csm to see all my total contributions and reset this? However I don't want my kids to suffer as she is living in a rental property costing 1000 pounds in London and this is what all my child maintenance goes on - their rent leaving her no money to spend on the kids and hence asking more every time from me.Thanks for ur guidance

Our Response:
I can only direct you to the CMS calculator to see what you should be paying, please see link here. You do not have to pay anything above and beyond this amount, what you contribute above this will always be at your own discretion.
SeparatedDads - 26-Sep-16 @ 11:25 AM
My children live in England with their mother my ex wife.I live in Belfast.I have always contributed 20 percent of my net earnings to her, and contributed to significant purchases such as both new school uniforms, school trips and also all holidays and travel to collect and return the children. She continues to not contribute to significant costs such as school trips and expects me to fully pay for them as well as all the other contributions that I make. As a nrp can I approach the Csa/csm to see all my total contributions and reset this? However I don't want my kids to suffer as she is living in a rental property costing 1000 pounds in London and this is what all my child maintenance goes on - their rent leaving her no money to spend on the kids and hence asking more every time from me. Thanks for ur guidance
Fedup - 25-Sep-16 @ 2:51 PM
RM - Your Question:
My wife left me about 10 months ago taking with her my three children to live 100 miles from the FMH.I have access to my children every other weekend and have to travel 400 miles and for somewhere between 8 and 12 hours each weekend in addition to fuel costs etc.When she left there was approx. £29000 equity in the home based on the valuations that she secured prior to going.She has not contributed to the house in anyway since she left and she has received maintenance for the children at the rate demonstrated on the gov.uk calculator.She also took with her lots of the furniture from the house and I purchased her a washing machine and tumble dryer for the new house.I have offered her half of the equity at the value when she left. is this correct?

Our Response:
I'd seek legal advice regarding this. As you are married and have three children, it is difficult to dertermine what she will be entitled to should she decide she wanted to take the matter further. However, at the same time she may just accept the offer and if you can agree between you it will be a lot less costly than if you/she decided to take the matter further.
SeparatedDads - 23-Sep-16 @ 2:27 PM
My wife left me about 10 months ago taking with her my three children to live 100 miles from the FMH. I have access to my children every other weekend and have to travel 400 miles and for somewhere between 8 and 12 hours each weekend in addition to fuel costs etc. When she left there was approx. £29000 equity in the home based on the valuations that she secured prior to going. She has not contributed to the house in anyway since she left and she has received maintenance for the children at the rate demonstrated on the gov.uk calculator. She also took with her lots of the furniture from the house and I purchased her a washing machine and tumble dryer for the new house. I have offered her half of the equity at the value when she left.is this correct?
RM - 23-Sep-16 @ 12:06 AM
My life was destroyed when my husband sent me packing, after 13 years we have been together. I was lost and helpless after trying so many ways to my husband back to me. One day at work, I was distracted, not knowing that my boss called me, so he sat and asked me what it was all about, I told him and he smiled and said it was no problem. I never understood what he meant by it was no problem getting back my husband, he said he used a spell to get back his wife when she left him for another man, and now they are together till date and initially I was shocked hearing something from my boss. He gave me an email address of the Prophet Abuvia which helped him get his wife back, I never believed that this would work, but I had no choice coming into contact with the sayings that I get done, and he asked for my information and that my husband was able to propose to throw him the spell and I sent him the details, but after two days, my mother called me that my husband was pleading that he wants me back, I never believed, because it was just a dream and I had to rush off to my mother's place and to my greatest surprise, was kneeling my husband beg mefor forgiveness that he wants me and the child back home, when I gave prophet Abuvia a conversation regarding sudden change of my husband and he made clear to me that my husband will love me until the end of the world, that he will never leave for another woman. Now me and my husband is back together and started doing funny things he has not done before, he makes me happy and do what it is supposed to do as a man without nagging. Please if you need help of any kind need, please contact Prophet Abuvia for help. His email is prophet.abuvia at g m a i l. com his website is prophetabuviasolutiontemple. webs. com
Sarahcoleman - 21-Sep-16 @ 8:47 PM
Flash- Your Question:
My wife and I are separated and she's moved out of the house 6 months ago 29th of March and she half of everything in the house.the house is sold and I have 4 weeks to move out. My x wife wants to come back in, do I have the right to refuse her entry until I move out

Our Response:
Yes, you have the right to refuse her entry. As a result, her option may be able to apply for a occupation order through the courts. However, it is unlikely this would reach a hearing date in the four weeks up to the completion of your house sale.
SeparatedDads - 12-Sep-16 @ 10:53 AM
My wife and I are separated and she's moved out of the house 6 months ago 29th of March and she half of everything in the house. ...the house is sold and I have 4 weeks to move out. My x wife wants to come back in, do I have the right to refuse her entry until I move out
Flash - 11-Sep-16 @ 7:28 AM
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