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When Ex Changes Locks on Jointly Owned Property

By: Imogen Jones LLB (hons) - Updated: 15 Oct 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.

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]
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
glass - Your Question:
Hi there, My wife and I got separated 10 months ago. Our children- 12 and 6 years old has been attending a private school for 5 years and the cost is very expensive. Before separation, I talked to my ex wife that we can not afford to keep the kids in the same school anymore and she was agree at that time to move them to a public school. But after our separation, she has changed her mind and said that she wants to keep them in the same school and ask me to share the fees school.I went to the school and let them know through a written declaration that I do not agree t renew the contract in order to keep the children in the same school for the next school year. I did not receive any response from them. More than that, my wife re-registered them for the new school year, applying for a bursary and now she is asking me to share the payments for the school year. What would be your advise in my situation, please ?

Our Response:
Where there is a disagreement, you really only have the options of discussing the matter via mediation, but if either of you are not willing to compromise then it would have to go through court. The court can order you to continue paying where it deems it is in the best interests of your children to remain at the school and if it sees you have the funds to continue paying. If you refuse to pay the school fees and the court feels you can continue paying, then it can request that you settle the outstanding fees. One option is to continue paying and apply through court to be released from the long term agreement. Otherwise, you could refuse to pay, but this would give your ex the option to also apply to court and request that you honour the commitment. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the children in question. The court will always put the children’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
SeparatedDads - 1-Sep-17 @ 2:53 PM
My now ex partner and I brought a house together over 10 years ago. When the relationship broke down I left the property with him solely occupying it until he then left the property and began renting it out without my permission. I gave up my keys as at the time he was living in the property. I do not contribute to the mortgage as he was living in the property when I left and now he is renting the property out illegally as our mortgage was not a buy to let mortgage. He is retaining all profits from the rent. I do not wish to be named on this mortgage but unfortunately he won't sell or remortgage in his own name. What can I do and is it likely to cost me a fortune to make him remortgage so I can remove my name. Also do I have any right to money he is receiving from renting the property??
Jen - 1-Sep-17 @ 12:52 PM
Hi there, My wife and I got separated 10 months ago. Our children- 12 and 6 years old has been attendinga private school for 5 years and the cost is very expensive. Before separation, I talked to my ex wife that we can not afford to keep the kids in the same school anymore and she was agree at that time to move them to a public school.But after our separation, she has changed her mind and said that she wants to keep them in the same school and ask me to share the fees school.I went to the school and let them know through a written declarationthat I do not agree t renew the contract in order to keep the children in the same school for the next school year.I did not receive any response from them . More than that, my wife re-registered them for the new school year, applying for a bursary and now she is asking me to share the payments for the school year. What would be your advise in my situation, please ?
glass - 31-Aug-17 @ 11:50 PM
@rolly - she can change the locks, her ex would then have to take the matter to court if he wanted to try and get back in. The court is likely to side with her is she has disabled children. I'm sure he wouldn't be bothered to take it to court. I'd ask a solicitor to send him a letter saying she's changing the locks and list the reasons why. Or she could just put it on the snip if and when she doesn't want to let him in.
Joe - 24-Aug-17 @ 2:07 PM
my daughter was recently divorced she lives in the family home with 3children 2 of which are disabled.The mortgage is in joint names and ex just goes in when ever he wants.He is very verbaly abusive to my daughter shouting ordering her to do what he says and is swearing foul language at them all this causes the eldest disabled child who is autistic to go into terrible trauma.My daughter hasn't changed the locks because she thinks she is legally not aloud.What can she do .Please reply soon.Thankyou Rolly.
rolly - 22-Aug-17 @ 8:56 PM
D - Your Question:
Hi, My wife and I have separated and I moved out of the marital home which we both own jointly, she has now moved her new partner in with my twin sons and changed the locks. Is she allowed to do this and still refuse to buy me out.

Our Response:
You would have to seek legal advice regarding this matter, as you may have to take the matter to court to have the issue resolved, if you cannot resolve it between you.
SeparatedDads - 3-Aug-17 @ 2:09 PM
Hi, My wife and I have separated and I moved out of the marital home which we both own jointly, she has now moved her new partner in with my twin sons and changed the locks. Is she allowed to do this and still refuse to buy me out.
D - 2-Aug-17 @ 7:21 PM
Adam - Your Question:
Had a messy relationship which has gone through courts and as a rusult the house should be sold. my question is should I be aloud a key to my property to let estate agents in and out because we have no contact at all. thanks

Our Response:
This issue should have been addressed through the courts. If your ex refuses to give you a key, then you would have to refer the matter back to court if the property is empty or you feel your ex is not doing enough to sell the house. You may wish to speak with your solicitor regarding this matter.
SeparatedDads - 27-Jul-17 @ 3:55 PM
Had a messy relationship which has gone through courts and as a rusult the house should be sold ..... my question is should I be aloud a key to my property to let estate agents in and out because we have no contact at all ..... thanks
Adam - 26-Jul-17 @ 4:32 PM
Stan - Your Question:
I bought my house before meeting partner who I then married after 4 years marriage is over but wife now wants half of house and refuses to leave, she has never paid any money towards mortgage does she have a claim?

Our Response:
Much depends upon how long before you married it was that you bought the house? How long you both lived in the house prior to marriage and whether you have children together. The fact your wife has never contributed financially to the house has no relevance if you are married. However, if the marriage has been short and children are not involved, then it is unlikely she would be entitled to half, if any. You would need to seek legal advice as it is difficult to answer your question fully based on the amount of information you have given.
SeparatedDads - 14-Jul-17 @ 11:59 AM
I bought my house before meeting partner who I then married after 4 years marriage is over but wife now wants half of house and refuses to leave, she has never paid any money towards mortgage does she have a claim?
Stan - 13-Jul-17 @ 5:05 PM
oxo44 - Your Question:
Hi,Seeking advice on how my son could get a court order to allow access to his jointly owned, unoccupied property after his ex partner changed the locks and has refused several requests via a solicitor to provide a key.He originally bought the house in 2000 before meeting his ex partner. In 2004 she moved in and they had their first child and took out a joint mortgage partially to renovate and add a conservatory and partially to clear debt. She input no capital at that time while he input £49500 deposit.They subsequently separated in 2005 for a short time and once back together had another child.Following the birth of the children the maternal grandparents especially became oppressive and constantly interfered resulting in their separation again in 2008. Spent a considerable amount of money getting reasonable access only to have that contact ruined by the mother and grandmother alienating the children. Should have gone back to court at that point but could not afford the costs. Since then my son has met and married his wife and they have two wonderful children, however the ex partner has constantly refused to resolve the situation regarding the property other than a ludicrous offer of £2700 to take his name off the deeds and mortgage. She has paid the mortgage and is still doing so and they were until recently negotiating a resolution, however everything has ground to a halt yet again with no response from the ex since April. She moved to her deceased grandmothers bungalow last July along with the children so they would not be homeless if the house was sold. Attempts to change the locks using a locksmith resulted in the police being called and false allegations made re harassment. The property is going to go into disrepair if not sold soon, the garden is already a disgrace, so need access to check interior and make presentable for sale. However she is driven by greed and jealousy and consequently not prepared to negotiate fairly. Can I go to court and represent myself as finances are really tight. Any advice would be appreciated.That time

Our Response:
The Bar Council has a guide to representing yourself in court which should tell you all you need to know, please see link here . Before your son takes this approach, he may wish to ask a solicitor to pen a letter specifying the repercussions and costs of taking the matter to court for both of them, but that he will not hesitate to do so if the situation is not resolved by a specific date. 'Orders for sale' are commonly obtained by a co-owner of a property where one of the co-owners wishes to sell their property against the other co-owner’s wishes. These are commonly obtained in circumstances in which the relationship between the co-owners’ has broken down and one party wishes to release equity by trying to force the sale of the property. These claims are brought under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA). If your son wishes to gain access to the house an occupation order may be requested along with an order of sale. If your son can afford some professional legal advice in order to explore his options fully, this will help. Otherwise, the Citizen's Advice Bureau may be able to help. Highlighting the fact your son's ex has tried her best to obstruct the sale and the property has fallen in to disrepair will help your son's case. Also, the fact he has attempted all types of rational negotiation and mediation and his ex continues to obstruct the sale will work to his advantage.
SeparatedDads - 13-Jul-17 @ 10:29 AM
Hi, Seeking advice on how my son could get a court order to allow access to his jointly owned, unoccupied property after his ex partner changed the locks and has refused several requests via a solicitor to provide a key. He originally bought the house in 2000 before meeting his ex partner. In 2004 she moved in and they had their first child and took out a joint mortgage partially to renovate and add a conservatory and partially to clear debt. She input no capital at that time while he input £49500 deposit.They subsequently separated in 2005 for a short time and once back together had another child.Following the birth of the children the maternal grandparents especially became oppressive and constantly interfered resulting in their separation again in 2008. Spent a considerable amount of money getting reasonable access only to have that contact ruined by the mother and grandmother alienating the children. Should have gone back to court at that point but could not afford the costs. Since then my son has met and married his wife and they have two wonderful children, however the ex partner has constantly refused to resolve the situation regarding the property other than a ludicrous offer of £2700 to take his name off the deeds and mortgage. She has paid the mortgage and is still doing so and they were until recently negotiating a resolution, however everything has ground to a halt yet again with no response from the ex since April. She moved to her deceased grandmothers bungalow last July along with the children so they would not be homeless if the house was sold. Attempts to change the locks using a locksmith resulted in the police being called and false allegations made re harassment. The property is going to go into disrepair if not sold soon, the garden is already a disgrace, so need access to check interior and make presentable for sale. However she is driven by greed and jealousy and consequently not prepared to negotiate fairly. Can I go to court and represent myself as finances are really tight. Any advice would be appreciated. That time
oxo44 - 11-Jul-17 @ 3:08 PM
Angie - Your Question:
I'm going through a divorce and my husband and I own a building together that had a business in it.the business is now closed but he changed the locks on the building.can he do that? I still need to enter the building to finish up some business issues. What should I do?

Our Response:
A solicitor's letter outlining your rights to enter the property might do the trick. Otherwise, you may have to apply to court if your husband still refuses.
SeparatedDads - 16-Jun-17 @ 12:50 PM
My husband and I bought a pub 2002. 5 years ago he left me for another woman. I have been living and running the pub on my own since then. Has he got the right to just move back into the pub?Do I not have the right to say no, I don't want you living in the same place as me!Please help ???
Julie - 7-Jun-17 @ 11:04 PM
I'm going through a divorce and my husband and I own a building together that had a business in it..the business is now closed but he changed the locks on the building...can he do that? I still need to enter the building to finish up some business issues. What should I do?
Angie - 2-Jun-17 @ 1:48 AM
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
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