How To Force The Sale Of A Jointly Owned Property

can i force the sale of a jointly owned property

Ian McEwan, Property Disputes Solicitor

Do you own a property jointly with someone?  Perhaps your ex, a relative, or a business partner?

Has the relationship broken down?

Do you need to remove your name from the mortgage?

Is the other party refusing to sell, or buy you out?

Sadly, this is all too common.

As you’ve found your way to this article, I’ll assume that it applies to you.

However, if the property is jointly owned you can force a sale.

Forcing A Sale Of Jointly Owned Property

The process is relatively straightforward:

  • If the property is genuinely jointly owned (because in some cases it might not be); and
  • The only dispute is whether the property should be sold or not; then
  • All that’s required is a simple application to court.

In those circumstances you can ask the court to give you control of the sale of the property.

You can also ask the court to sign any documents necessary to sell the house if the other joint owner refuses.

In a straightforward case like this you could have an order for sale within a few months.

You Might Not Need To Do That!

But it can often be quicker than that.

That may be a surprise to some – you often find that many people have been trying to get a joint owner to sell a property for years.

Rightly or wrongly the sight of a solicitor’s letter is usually enough to make the difference.

It signifies that you won’t tolerate any further delays.

If the letter is worded correctly, adopting the right tone, you may well find that the other party will agree to sell without the need to involve the court at all.

Alternatively, you might receive an offer for your share of the property, or even an invitation to buy theirs.

I’m currently acting for a client whose ex refused to return any correspondence about the sale of their house for years.

Since getting involved we’ve sent three letters and now have a deal that will allow both parties to move on with their lives.

Protective Steps

Unfortunately, some people’s response will be to bury their head in the sand.

That might have been your experience already.

If a well-balanced letter gets you nowhere the next stage is to send a more formal “letter before action” to give the other joint owner a short period to agree to your request before you issue your application at court.

You need to do this.  If you don’t, you’ll be penalised by the court.

The benefit is that this letter should leave the other party in no doubt that you will be applying to court to force the sale of the property if they don’t respond.

It will also show the court that you have done all that you can to try to resolve things.

In the unlikely event that this letter is ignored, the next step is to send your application to court.

The Process

The court will send a copy of the application to the other side.

A date will be set for a hearing, and if all goes to plan, you’ll get your order.

You might find that after issuing the claim the other party gets in touch, either directly or via solicitors, with an offer to settle things, meaning you won’t have to go to court.

Other Issues

There are a few other things to consider.

Severing A Joint Tenancy

If you own the property as “joint tenants”, you might want to consider “severing” the joint tenancy.

Sorry for the technical jargon.

The reason for this is that where land is held as joint tenants, if one dies that person’s share passes automatically to the other.

If you sever the joint tenancy, you then become “tenants in common”.  If one joint owner dies in this scenario their share of the property does not pass automatically to the other joint owner, but to those set out in their will.

So, if you own a property as joint tenants and would rather your share of the property goes to someone else if the worst should happen, severing the joint tenancy might be a good idea.

Is The Property Jointly Owned?

A further thing to consider is whether the property is actually jointly owned.

That may sound a bit silly, but it’s possible that the property may not have been registered jointly.

It might also be the case that the amount of each ex partner’s share in the property is in dispute.

In either of these scenarios a bit more investigation will be needed before you can apply to court for an order for sale.

Forcing The Sale – Next Steps

I hope that this article has given you an idea of how you can force the sale of a jointly owned property, whether that’s by simply threatening to take the matter to court, or actually doing that if you don’t get a positive response.

If you own a property jointly with someone; if the relationship has broken down; if you want to sell; and if the other person is refusing to co-cooperate, feel free to get in touch.  I’d be happy to discuss this with you.

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