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When Ex Changes Locks on Jointly Owned Property

By: Imogen Jones LLB (hons) - Updated: 6 Apr 2022 | 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]
Well! Anyway you might need a locksmith service for that In case you do not want to see your ex anymore entering your flat, you have not took back your keys from him or her, or you might need to enter your flat or his flat to take back your stuff. Anyway you might need it, but try to break up calm way
Nicollet - 6-Apr-22 @ 4:00 PM
I'm still at home but my wife says she wants me to leave I'm well aware of house rights but she's now threatening to put in for a house swap what happens then
Juice - 26-Jun-21 @ 1:12 PM
Hi.I moved to France 5 years ago with my partner and bought a house with money left to me by my father.Because of his behaviour I wish him to leave the house. He owns a property in France which os empty and he also still married to his wife despite bring with ne 11 years. He is refusing to leave my property what can I do.
River - 30-Dec-20 @ 2:11 PM
Looking for sone help my parter and his ex wife (divorced) are selling the joint home the ex wife hasn't lived in the joint home for over a year (paying her half still) but his two sons have since separation. recently its turnt quite nasty with the two sons both 20yrs old getting aggressive and the ex wife entering the house and joining in to the point the police where called. now my partner wants to serve notice on the boys but his ex is stating she has rights to who lives in the property until it sells as its on the market. can anyone shed any light?
lauren - 17-Nov-20 @ 11:54 AM
My X partner and I were together 15 years, unmarried. We had a house built in Greece it’s in both our names . He was violent aggressive and controlling after we moved there so I had to leave him and come back to the Uk with my 15 year old daughter. He has now met someone else and has changed the locks on our home. He is saying that if I come anywhere near the house or try to a see it to retrieve my possessions he will hurt me. ?? Any advice ??
Boobooka - 31-Jul-20 @ 12:04 PM
I’ve been divorced and my ex wife been granted by family court to relocate to France. I still have an occupation order since 2013 January. If my ex wife already in France with the children and I’m still in london and the property we owned together (we’ve got a register of title of ownership) can I access the property within an occupational order which still in place?? As my ex wife not anymore in the property, and I’m the ownership of this property, can I access my property?? By the way, she changed the locks for the property and I don’t have key for the property. I still have goods there. I applied by FL403 to the the court to dis game he the occupation order.
G.E.L - 29-Jul-20 @ 4:18 AM
My wife wanted space for 2 weeks so she said but 4 months on and I'm still no where near we have a wonderful daughter between us had the police involved 3 times from her saying I'm harassment in her witch is not true all I've asked for is to be fair with me I stay calm and she goes on a mad range with me its driving me mad I need some to talk to
Johnny - 10-Jun-20 @ 8:11 PM
My partner through me out 2 weeks ago I was due to go to work 10 mins later while I was at work she changed the locks on me and no wont give me access we have been together 13 years and I'm only name on deeds she has not contributed to any household Bill's during the 13 years we have 1 child between us and 2 step kids and now I find she subletting to her nephew I'm living in a van and during lockdown been impossible to find showers and toilets how can I go about getting my house back I've tried the softly softly approach
Andy - 31-May-20 @ 1:37 PM
We been married 22 years. His parents groomed him to storm around the house, shouting, swearing at me and kids. Always borrow on house and not pay off. I bought new house on my own but needed his salary slip to borrow 30% mortgage. My lawyer make mistake and did not get his signature for 20% of title deed and me 80%. Now he wont transfer it back to me.We are separated but not divorce. He live at his other house. He had no intention to be together and alienate my older kids from me. My younger kids refused to live with him as he shout and swear at them and he makes it very clear he doesnt want them. Recent months he had tried very hard to be nice to win them over with sweets, takeaways, fizzy drinks. I want to move home oversea and what is my position. How can i take back my house from him.
flamingo - 19-May-20 @ 10:27 PM
@bones.well just give the poor women some more money .you don’t want to see the poor women on struggle street you once loved this women with all your heart you shared a life together.so give her sum penny’s .my bones does for me we have a complicated relationship I love heaps off guys but he is my cash cow so take leaf from his book .
Kylie - 7-Feb-20 @ 8:52 PM
My wife left me 6 yrs ago,the house and land it is on is in both our names.I feel she abanded the place.She has received money to take her name off the deed.Yet she has not done so.Now she is broke and is trying to get more money from me.What can I do?
Bones - 7-Feb-20 @ 9:38 AM
Even my own mothersaid with the time frame (I would psychology mess up the child )if i went to court now after 10 years off no contact .and would cause only conflict and (beliefs) no good would come from it and I would get myself in trouble because she told me herself I love you son but you are not father material You are just like your own father .and it’s best to leave the poor women alone and the child .and for me to keep living the way I do because it (suits me) it was like a (family intervention )my (brothers )strongly believe this is the best for everyone.and I do hold (stock )in what they say because they no me (better then anyone gods truth ).so will take this advice .they made me feel better about the whole (child thing ).so as (my family said )everything as worked out perfectly bro stop (worrying).she the mother got what she wanted me out off the picture and you never had to pay child support and we all no deep down (you never wanted rights gods truth bro admit the truth ).and yeah it spoke volumes to me and they are( right ).and for me to stop (acting )like my other family members because you where (nothing )like them why act like them .we will get you help so we have my son and brother back .(forget the child for god sake she wants nothing to do with you .they are wise people my family.
C.laurie - 27-Oct-19 @ 8:26 PM
Truth is I share house at (38 )and (enjoy it ).but there is a (down side )when you have a teenage daughter and no spare room for her and the only way for visitation is though the courts in (reality).and make matters worse the child is 14 or 15 now .i have been told I am to old for this lifestyle and need to get my own place before court action so the child has own room .but the child is 14 or 15 now I am not( smart men )but I think they can make up there own minds at that age and I haven’t spoken to her sence she was 5 I tried to explain this to my family and said like even if I gotmy own place with no contact for 10 years it’s a bit weird I think plus a (very long process )and I don’t no if it’s (fair )on the child with (time frame )and it could do more harm then good .it is very hard to put (emotions aside )and make the right decision .but I decided I like my lifestyle and will keep living this way .and let her mother and daughter get on with there life’s
C.laurie - 27-Oct-19 @ 6:02 PM
@tyu.@pigeon.i,wish on the (holy bible )I call social services on the mother off my child and add my daughter removed from (her care) not out spite or jealously but for my (daughters safety and for her to have better upbringing with me ).and yes chronic heart failure disease runs in my family and heaven to be hold I have had the test .and I have same disease so I need to keep my stress levels down .i can honestly say with the time frame i am walking away for my health because her mother be loving it if I was dead .
C.laurie - 27-Oct-19 @ 3:31 PM
I split with my ex 3 weeks ago, since then he’s been abusive towards me in front of my children, called social services trying to get kids taken off me and now he’s changed the locks, I have none of my children’s things it’s been 2 weeks and we’re living on a bedroom floor at my friends with no items... what can I do? I need stability for my children.
Tyu - 27-Oct-19 @ 9:43 AM
I left an abusive partnership and moved out left my daughter with mother she is 16 next February .I have severed all ties with ex partner with the mortgage .she as a new man living in my house and changed the locks how can I get her to sell up as I want my share of house .I have chronic heart failure and need my money to live what I have of my life left please help
Pigeon - 7-Sep-19 @ 8:01 PM
My x partner of the past 10 years is demanding that I pay half the mortgage, she threw me out approx 8 months ago and I had to move into rented property, I personally don't think it's right that I pay half of the mortgage
Mick - 4-Sep-19 @ 2:19 PM
My husband and I have separatedbut still living in the same house , I booked a holiday for us to both go on last year but unfortunately he doesn’t want to go or stay in our marriage , can I go and leave the marital home for 10 days with out him having rights over the house whilst I’m gone or can he claim I’ve left the marital home as I’m away on holiday.
Sis - 14-Aug-19 @ 2:13 PM
I've been separated from my ex wife for over 4 years, she has been living in the marital home since and her new partner moved in over 12 months ago and they had agreed with the bank to pay £1000 a month which was to include arrears, but then recently found out they hadn't been paying anything, I asked the mortgage company to take the house back 4 years ago as the arrears are now approx £45k, my ex wife has also moved out of the house now into a rented house but she still has the keys for the house, I have received a court letter yesterday repossession order, where do I stand in sorting this out, I've rang the mortgage company several times to ask them to repossess the house and I've also rang ombusman and numerous debt help lines and not been able to get any answers, I've also been through a solicitors at the start of the separation, but my ex said ar the time she sent want the house selling and she was to move back in with our daughter so I didnt have a leg to stand on, my daughter is now 16 year and moving to London as she has been accepted in dance college which is going to cost me £1000 per month and that includes college fees and accommodation. I'd appreciate it if anyone could give me some advise, I'm physically and mentally and financially ready to break. Also once they take the house back are we both liable to pay the arrears/shortfalls and do I legally have to pay any arrears when i have no assets at all and all my wages go on maintenance/college fees/accommodation and then my own rent and costs of living I have nothing left. Thank you in advance.
Madmax - 9-Aug-19 @ 5:10 PM
Just completed divorce case and paid lump sum to ex but he is still in the house. Am I within my right to change the locks?
Phil - 5-Jul-19 @ 6:31 PM
My partner & I have been separated for over a year we are not married. In this time she has become involved with some very negative people & deveped a drug addiction. She has undesirable people staying in the house. The children have been removed & now living with me & my mother in law. The Pol have been to the house multiple times causing damage. We agreed the house would be sold but it’s impossible with her living there & the house in the current state. I finally managed to get her to move her stuff out but now I’ve found out she has broken back into the house. If I phone the police they say there is nothing they can do because she is joint owner. I need to get this house fixed up & sold so my children have a new home what can I do I feel so stuck??
John - 29-May-19 @ 11:09 PM
Me and my wife have been apart for about 15 months and I still have belongings in the shed am I allowed to remove the locks which I haven’t got keys for and take my stuff out please
Tuffty - 17-Mar-19 @ 5:37 PM
Me and my ex partner have been separated and I have moved out of the home as someone was about to buy telhe property unfortunately it has not gone through and I now do not live in the property but my ex partner does full time. Do I need to still pay for the property. The property is joint owned by us both but the mortgage comes out of my ex partners bank account
Ladams - 15-Jan-19 @ 11:40 PM
I decided to finally move out of a joint home I have with my ex (after an incident. we had not been together for over a year anyway). We have a daughter of which it's 60/40 to me. We have a joint equal mortgage which we both paid equally. I still have some of my possessions at the house. I want to leave them there in my storage closet and room until the house is sold. Can he throw my stuff out ? can he force me to take my possessions out of the joint home just because I moved out? I'm also trying to force a home sale but he refuses.
vics - 30-Nov-18 @ 4:34 PM
Hi I wonder if you can help just need some advice on housing. I own my home it's mortgaged & my ex is on the morgage as a named person. We have been divorced for 4 yrs & I live in the house with my 3 teenage kids aged 17,18,13. My ex rents elsewhere but has decided that he can't afford to keep renting & wants to move back to the house, can he do that, apparently his being getting some advice from his solicitor saying he can, just needs to get a court order or something, his also married now & the wife will be coming to. I really don't want this to happen & don't wannaoo sell my home. Hope you can help...thanks
Ash - 31-Oct-18 @ 12:05 PM
Hi I have split from my ex we were never married but have children. We rented a social housing house a joint tennants and my name is still on the agreement. She has contacted a solicitor and is trying to force me to remove my name. Can she do this and what are my rights. Paul
Tackledodger - 29-Oct-18 @ 5:54 PM
Hi, me and my wife have been married for 5 years, we have had a joint mortgage on the current home for just over 2 years. She cheated on my in which our marriage then broke down, she then carried on seeing the new guy whilst we were living together which was very stressful for myself. I then went to stay at my brothers as I could not handle living with her whilst she was with him. I was still paying all of the mortgage, she then abandoned the home to move in with her new boyfriend so I moved back in the house and carried on paying the mortgage to make sure we don’t lose the house. We are currently going through the divorce in which we are looking to sell, she has now changed her ways and is threatening to move back in with her partner even tho I am here and she has not contributed a penny, before and after the breakdown. We have a child which we have shared care for. This is detrimental to our child as it would be confusing for her to go though all this again. Is there anyway I can stop her from moving back and then just proceed to divorce and sell the house?
G - 18-Oct-18 @ 5:38 AM
RIO - 7-Oct-18 @ 9:30 AM
Hi i was drinking .had mental breakdown .threatend my husband which i was arested.put bail till court few weeks.charged with breaking bail.he send me a.legal letter from himself saying im no come.near my home its joint ownership.as im still no in court yet have i right go home when case over.he said he be ringing police .its my.home for 34 years
Pmonica - 27-Jul-18 @ 7:16 PM
Rick - Your Question:
Hi me and the wife seperated in Dec 17 after 17 yrs of marriage. she said she didn't love me anymore, we jointly pay the mortgage on our property and she's now filed for divorce on unreasonable behaviour. She said her solicitor has said she can change the locks on the property even without my permission, but everywhere I've read says she's not allowed to do so and I have the legal right to move back in if I wish. As im still paying the mortgage and also rent on a temporary house. And im struggling, I can't get legal advice in writing without paying in excess of £250 per hour which is frustrating! Where do I stand on this matter as she insists her solicitor is in the right to say she can change the locks. There is no history ofviolence,drugs,alcohol involved and no court order against me.

Our Response:
You have the right to stay in the home if you're married, in a civil partnership or on the 'title deeds' the document that proves who owns your home, please see the link here.
SeparatedDads - 27-Jul-18 @ 2:47 PM
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