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When Ex Changes Locks on Jointly Owned Property

By: Imogen Jones LLB (hons) - Updated: 15 Apr 2018 | 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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[Add a Comment]
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
I split with my ex a year ago and currently rent. We own 5 properties jointly of which my ex lives in one with the kids and four are rented. A tenant has now left and I want to move in to it but my ex objects cause she says she will lose out on rent money!! Im paying a fortune to rent my self! Can she stop me from moving into this house? Thanks
Mark - 24-Mar-18 @ 12:34 PM
dad1 - Your Question:
Hi, i've just split from my girlfriend (never married or engaged) of 6 yrs, we have 2 kids together (one is 2 & the other is 4). I understand she can take possession of the house. (even though she's not on the mortgage or on any of the bills as I took care of everything, all in my name.) My question is, when/if she takes the house, it's until the last kid leaves home at 18, then I get custody of it back. So in the meantime does she have to pay me rent to live in the house and pay the bills and general maintenance etc, or basically do I have to keep paying everything until the kids are 18 and she lives rent free? If this is the case then I may have to go bankrupt which obviously isn't a good thing. As i'll be left with no way to pay for food or bills or rent for a new place. So i'll at least be made homeless out of it if she takes this course. Also what if she moves a new partner in?

Our Response:
If you cannot agree on what you should do with the home, or how you should make arrangements, then mediation may be an option to consider. There is no black and white answers here. So, you both have to try to decide what is in your children's best interests. If you don't, then the matter can end up in court and it will be the court who will decide on you/your partner's and most importantly, your children's behalf.
SeparatedDads - 12-Mar-18 @ 11:18 AM
Hi, i've just split from my girlfriend (never married or engaged) of 6 yrs, we have 2 kids together (one is 2 & the other is 4). I understand she can take possession of the house. (even though she's not on the mortgage or on any of the bills as i took care of everything, all in my name.) My question is, when/if she takes the house, it's until the last kid leaves home at 18, then i get custody of it back. So in the meantime does she have to pay me rent to live in the house and pay the bills and general maintenance etc, or basically do i have to keep paying everything until the kids are 18 and she lives rent free? If this is the case then i may have to go bankrupt which obviously isn't a good thing. As i'll be left with no way to pay for food or bills or rent for a new place. So i'll at least be made homeless out of it if she takes this course. Also what if she moves a new partner in?
dad1 - 11-Mar-18 @ 4:36 PM
I have my own home , no mortgage, I then married an English lady abroad . (The marriage certificate is from another continent) .My wife obviously moved in to my home & never wanted to work, I am on the min wage supported by Working tax credit, been married 8 years. and have a young child . My wife has taken off refusing to tell me where she is or when she will back and told me not to contact her. Does she have a right to stop me from seeing my child ? Does she have a right to a fiscal share of my homeetc. ? How long do I have to keep her belongings in the home ?
nothing is permanent - 4-Mar-18 @ 3:19 PM
Hi, I'm divorced and remarried and my ex now wants my shares from work that I took out after we split up can she have them
Carly - 21-Feb-18 @ 9:45 PM
Mo - Your Question:
My wife attack me forcing myself and 2 kids out of house I had intended to move make due to she moved out for a month now she change the locks to the property and she not living there is she break the law on this

Our Response:
Your only recourse would be to seek legal advice regarding this matter, as unless you can solve the matter mutually with your ex, you would have to take it to court.
SeparatedDads - 18-Jan-18 @ 2:28 PM
My wife attack me forcing myself and 2 kids out of house I had intended to move make due to she moved out for a month now she change the locks to the property and she not living there is she break the law on this
Mo - 16-Jan-18 @ 8:10 PM
Debs - Your Question:
My daughter partner has changed the locks on the house and told her he has a non molestation order starting against her. She's at her wits end he wants her out so he can keep the house. They've been arguing lately but no violence. Just door slamming but the door broke so hecalled police and they said she has a right to be there as joint mortgage. Next day receives this new news can he do this

Our Response:
Unfortunately, we can offer no more information than the article gives. Your daughter would have to seek legal advice in order to apply to court for an occupation order.
SeparatedDads - 22-Dec-17 @ 10:10 AM
My daughter partner has changed the locks on the house and told her he has a non molestation order starting against her. She's at her wits end he wants her out so he can keep the house. They've been arguing lately but no violence. Just door slamming but the door broke so he called police and they said she has a right to be there as joint mortgage. Next day receives this new news can he do this
Debs - 21-Dec-17 @ 2:01 PM
Emak - Your Question:
Hi, I have separated from my husband and we have a house together that we are selling. I have our 8 year old living with me and he as our 14 year old with him. He wants more money out of the sale. Is he entitled to anymore? I’m happy with a 50/50 split

Our Response:
Much depends upon the reasons why your ex feels he may be justified in asking for a more than equal split. However, if the marriage has been long, and you have two children between you, then you are both entitled to your equal share of the marriage pot. However, it is impossible to answer without fully knowing the reasons why your ex is requesting more. Therefore, you may wish to seek some legal advice.
SeparatedDads - 19-Dec-17 @ 2:42 PM
Hi, I have separated from my husband and we have a house together that we are selling. I have our 8 year old living with me and he as our 14 year old with him. He wants more money out of the sale. Is he entitled to anymore? I’m happy with a 50/50 split
Emak - 19-Dec-17 @ 12:36 PM
Scrabble1 - Your Question:
Hi, husband left the FMH a month ago after taking his belongings. I have changed the locks as it was reassuring for my children and I to feel safe and secure. He asked access on a specific date at a specific time when he knew I was at work. I emailed offering alternatives to come after my working hours or for him to provide me with a list and I would securely leave the items with a neighbour for him to collect. He still turned up at my daughter's school demanding the keys. I got a solicitor letter today saying I had no right to change the locks and demanding a key. We have never seen where he now resides so is he allowed to infringe any time that suits him on my privacy and that of my children? Surely such visits should be agreed by all parties? He barely has any personal items left. Everything left is furniture for family use which is puzzling.

Our Response:
Perhaps he feels pushed out (especially if the children you speak of are also his - you mention them as being 'my' children). While you are speaking of this from a practical viewpoint, emotions and frustrations can also run high after separation and a combination of both doesn't always lead to such rational responses and behaviour. If you cannot agree between you what your ex wants from the situation, suggest mediation as a response to the solicitor's letter, as it shows you are willing to negotiate the issue.
SeparatedDads - 20-Nov-17 @ 10:48 AM
Hi, husband left the FMH a month ago after taking his belongings. I have changed the locks as it was reassuring for my children and I to feel safe and secure. He asked access on a specific date at a specific time when he knew I was at work. I emailed offering alternatives to come after my working hours or for him to provide me with a list and I would securely leave the items with a neighbour for him to collect. He still turned up at my daughter's school demanding the keys. I got a solicitor letter today saying I had no right to change the locks and demanding a key. We have never seen where he now resides so is he allowed to infringe any time that suits him on my privacy and that of my children? Surely such visits should be agreed by all parties? He barely has any personal items left. Everything left is furniture for family use which is puzzling...
Scrabble1 - 19-Nov-17 @ 1:45 AM
Gossy - Your Question:
I left my wife, she started divorce proceedings so I then got a solicitor, we own the property that she is still in and I want to collect some personal things, I’ve arrived to find that she has changed the locks , what can I do now as it’s 17.35 and solicitors are closed ? Thankyou

Our Response:
We can add no more that what the article advises. It may take a few days or longer to get your belongings. If you need an escort, the police may be able to help.
SeparatedDads - 14-Nov-17 @ 10:22 AM
I left my wife, she started divorce proceedings so I then got a solicitor, we own the property that she is still in and I want to collect some personal things, I’ve arrived to find that she has changed the locks , what can I do now as it’s 17.35 and solicitors are closed ? Thankyou
Gossy - 13-Nov-17 @ 5:35 PM
The house and mortgage are solely in my name but have lived in the house with partner for 10 years. He left took all clothes can I refuse him access to the house to see our son? He claims that he has a right to come and go and refuses to leave and insists on staying over every weekend which i find very distressing can I stop him from staying? Also am selling house he said I have to give him first refusal is this correct?
Dee - 8-Nov-17 @ 11:10 PM
I am recently divorced and my name is on the title as a co-owner. I have moved out. I still have all my belongings there. The house is to be sold so I have not removed furniture so as not to make the home bare and therefore not sell due to improper staging. This was known by my ex. He has now changed the locks to prevent me from entering the home when he isn’t present. He works on the road all month and is only home for a day and a half. Can he legally keep me from entering the home when he isn’t present? Nothing states in our divorce papers about him occupying or myself. He does live there when he is home.
Niki - 15-Oct-17 @ 10:57 PM
@Lovemore - if they have both put in the same amount of money and if both have equally shared costs and the mortgage payments etc, then yes. If contributions have been unequal, then the person who has contributed the most money will get the greater share.
AJ - 3-Oct-17 @ 12:31 PM
When to two sisters jointly own one house together do they both have the same rights of that property
Lovemore - 2-Oct-17 @ 9:20 PM
My nephew got married a year ago but wife now moved out house owned jointly on mortgage we asked soliciter he says we could change locks but she could get in if she damaged anything then she had to repair her father has twice broke in. police say she has the right to break in with father is this right we think not please can anybody help us as aggression from her family is getting very bad.
Hopefully - 30-Sep-17 @ 7:35 PM
annimallover - Your Question:
A married couple are seperated and both own there house with both names on the deed! The house is now vacant and the child is an adult now! the police told the husband he can move back his home pay his spouse paments of rent to own of his half of his property! After she recieved his first $200 money order she does not accept it! can he still legally move back in his vacant house?

Our Response:
Unfortunately, we have knowledge only of UK-based family law, so therefore cannot answer your question.
SeparatedDads - 18-Sep-17 @ 1:50 PM
a married couple are seperated and both own there house with both names on the deed! The house is now vacant and the child is an adult now! the police told the husband he can move back his home pay his spouse paments of rent to own of his half of his property! After she recieved his first $200 money order she does not accept it! can he still legally move back in his vacant house?
annimallover - 15-Sep-17 @ 8:32 PM
Hi I jointly own a property with an ex currently awaiting a court date to force a sale as hes not very cooperative. This has been going on for 8 yrs now and court is the last resort. Since all this has come about my ex is in prison for what im not sure and his new partner has moved in approx 3-4mths ago. Now im getting reminders about mortgage arrears ect is there a way of evicting the new partner if shes not paying the bills while i wait for my court date. Many thanks
Rio 1 - 11-Sep-17 @ 5:16 PM
hi. my husband moved out of our jointly owned home 10 month ago. im still living there with our children aged 7&3. i have now started a childminding business from home. i have filed for divorce. he cant afford his rent anymore and wants to move back. he has been emotionally abusive. i have proof in emails. he is an alcoholic and a drug user. he has only paid maintenance twice. he hasnt paid towards the morgage for 10 months. if he moves back in i will loose my license to be a childminder because i have a duty to safeguard the children in my setting. what can i do?
sj - 9-Sep-17 @ 9:27 AM
@Jen - you could speak directly the mortage company they will be able to help. Your only other option would be to take it to court to ask for your name to be removed. But, if you have not been contributing to the mortgage for 10 years, you can't expect your ex to give you the rent he is collecting! But if he loses in court he might have to pay the costs.
MaTTf - 5-Sep-17 @ 3:27 PM
JD - Your Question:
I have been going through a divorce for over a year now and my ex left the marital home 6 months ago, leaving me with a very high mortgage to pay. A few days ago, she tried to access the property at 00:40 in the morning demanding that I take the chain off the door and let her in. I recorded the conversation. Luckily, she was not smart enough to try either of the back doors, which she has taken every spare key for. Given her unstable and unreasonable behaviour, can I at least change the back locks and keep the chain on the front door to prevent her from coming in in the middle of the night? I do not know what she is capable of after this and am worried what she will do if she gets in and there are no witnesses around.

Our Response:
Legally speaking, if the property is jointly owned, then you should not change the locks without the other owner’s consent. Your ex has the right to enter the property and you should not exclude them from the property without a court order. However, if your ex has moved out of the property, it is reasonable to expect them to give you advance notice if she wishes to enter. If you can’t agree on when and you fear your ex may enter the property as such anti-social times again, then you may wish to take legal advice regarding your rights to having a private life.
SeparatedDads - 4-Sep-17 @ 2:32 PM
I have been going through a divorce for over a year now and my ex left the marital home 6 months ago, leaving me with a very high mortgage to pay. A few days ago, she tried to access the property at 00:40 in the morning demanding that I take the chain off the door and let her in. I recorded the conversation. Luckily, she was not smart enough to try either of the back doors, which she has taken every spare key for. Given her unstable and unreasonable behaviour, can I at least change the back locks and keep the chain on the front door to prevent her from coming in in the middle of the night? I do not know what she is capable of after this and am worried what she will do if she gets in and there are no witnesses around.
JD - 2-Sep-17 @ 1:00 PM
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