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How to Sell a House When One Partner Refuses with two women and a man

How To Sell a House When One Partner Refuses

(Last Updated: 04/03/2024)
9 min read
Key Takeaways

A relationship breakdown is hard enough to go through as it is, but it's so much harder when you're bound together by property ownership. What can you do when you want to sell your house but your partner doesn't? There are a few ways to sell a house when one partner refuses; some are easier than others.

The most important thing when there is a breakdown and one person refuses to sell is to keep up full repayment of your mortgage each month. Read more - What happens to a joint mortgage when you separate?

How to sell a house when one partner refuses and you're married or civil partners

Where only one of you is on the title deed, the owner has the right to stay in the property, but they cannot force the other to move out. In English law, the non-owner, referred to by the family court as a 'non-entitled' spouse has the right to continue to live in the property along with any children, even if the property is sold to a third party.

If the owner wants to remove the non-owner, they would have to get the non-owners consent. However, if the non-owner withholds consent unreasonably, the court will dispense with their consent. If you're getting divorced, you must wait until you've reached a divorce settlement to determine how much of your home the family courts will award you. Read more - Who Gets the House in a Divorce/Dissolution?

My partner won't leave my house, what can I do?

If your ex-partner is refusing to leave your house, you have to raise a court action and seek:

  • 1Occupation Order

To force them to move out, it may also include an exclusion from the surrounding area.

  • 2Exclusion Order

To prevent them from entering the property or area for up to three years. These are only granted to protect you or a child of the family from threats or misconduct by the removed party.

  • 2Non-Molestation Order

You can give joint undertakings to the court to use your best endeavours to share your home jointly, without both of you living there at the same time.

If your ex partner is trying to make you leave:

Until or unless your ex has a court order they can't make you leave the home if you have occupation rights either as their legal spouse or because you are named on the title deeds or tenancy agreement. If your partner becomes aggressive, call 999 in an emergency. For advice & support call Refuge on 0808 2000 247, contact Women's Aid or call Respect: Men's advice line on 0808 8010327. If you have nowhere else to live, you may be able to get emergency housing.

How to sell a house when one partner refuses and you're joint tenants

As explained below, you can ask your partner to buy you out. However, you can't force a sale. You will have to sever your joint tenancy first and register as tenants in common.

Be careful not to sever the joint tenancy before you mutually agree with your partner on how much you both own in the property. Getting this wrong can lead to lengthy and cost disputes over who owns what. Read more - Joint Property Ownership Disputes. We can help sever a joint tenancy for you - call us on 0333 344 3234, or click to get in contact.

How to sell a house when one partner refuses and you're tenants in common

If your partner refuses to sell the house and refuses or is unable to buy you out, you can force a sale. However, this can take a long time and become very expensive. Here is the process you should follow:

  • 1

    Can I sell half my house to my partner?

Unless your partner has a lot of free cash, they will probably need to borrow the funds to buy you out. This would normally be done through refinancing the property and taking equity out via a remortgage.

Your partner buys your share of the property and simultaneously takes over your share of the mortgage. Your name is removed from the title deed by a transfer of equity, with your partner either remortgaging the property or using a product transfer, where they can keep the same lender.

How to calculate buying someone out of a house

First, you'll have to agree on what percentage of the property you each own. This might be an easy 50/50, or you may have been smart enough to protect your shares using a deed of trust. If you need help establishing your share of the property, our dispute team can help. We also have local RICS valuers all over the country who will tell you the market value of your shares.

Read more - How to calculate buying someone out of a house

This additional borrowing will be means tested as with any mortgage. If your partner is deemed unable to maintain the extra debt, they cannot borrow the money to buy you out. You may have to force a sale to release your equity in the property.

  • 2

    What if my ex can't afford to buy me out?

You must be tenants in common to force a sale. If you are joint tenants, you must first sever your joint tenancy and register as tenants in common. You can do this without your partner's cooperation.

You can then apply to the court for an 'order of sale'. They may:

  • refuse a sale
  • refuse a sale but make an order regulating the right to occupy the property
  • Order a sale
  • Order a sale, but suspend the order for a short period; and
  • In exceptional cases, partition the co-owned property.

Their decision will be based on:

  • Yours and your partner's original intentions for buying the property.
  • The welfare of any children who live with you
  • The interests of any secured creditors (such as your mortgage lender) or beneficiaries

Read more - How can I force a sale?

Help! I don't want to sell my house anymore

If you've been served a court order to force a sale, you cannot stop your co-owner from selling the house. If not, and you both agreed on selling the property, you can pull out of the sale now that you've changed your mind. You will most likely have to pay your estate agent to cover their costs so far, but you can halt the sale fairly easily up until the exchange of contracts:

  • Contact your estate agent and let them know you want to withdraw from any agreed sale and/or take the house off the market.
  • The estate agent will inform the other parties that the transaction has fallen through.
  • Speak to the agent and your solicitor, you will still have to pay some of the fees (for work completed so far and disbursements).

If you have already exchanged contracts, pulling out of the sale is a breach of contract, and the buyer can sue you. As well as paying back their deposit, you'll be liable for their legal costs and other expenses incurred in the transaction. If you pull out of the sale because you are discriminating against the buyer's protected characteristic (i.e. race, religion, gender) the legal consequences will be much higher.

Do you need help to sell a house when one partner refuses?

We can help sever your joint tenancy so you can sell your property, even if your partner refuses. Are you trying to force a sale? You can book a free, no-obligation 15-minute meeting* with a solicitor to discuss your claim.

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Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Written by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Reviewed by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.

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