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When Ex Changes Locks on Jointly Owned Property

By: Imogen Jones LLB (hons) - Updated: 17 Aug 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]
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
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
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