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How to Sell a House When One Partner Refuses 

When you’re selling a property, you want it to be as straightforward as possible. But what if it isn’t straightforward for you? What if your partner is refusing to allow the sale to go through? What can you do then?

We’re going to give you the answers you need for different scenarios.

Let’s get started with one important detail.  

Something that can be easily overlooked is the importance to be certain that you are the only person named on the title deeds for the property. If you are, you can sell or rent out the property without having to have your spouse’s permission because it’s in your name only. 

There is a big difference between being named on the house repayment documents and being named on the title deeds. If you’re named on house repayments it only means that you have a responsibility for making regular payments. It does not automatically mean that you’re a joint owner. 

When you do have joint ownership of a property and you do not have your spouse’s permission to sell, all is not lost because you do have some options. For example, you could offer to buy their share of the property (although you will need to obtain an independent valuation to ensure a fair price is achieved). 

Now to the different scenarios…  

What Can I Do if My Partner is in Prison and Won’t Agree to a Sale, but I Need to Sell? 

If your imprisoned spouse does not agree to the sale of your jointly owned house, you can make an application to a court for what is called ‘an order for sale’. When the order for sale has been granted by the court, you’ll be able to push through the sale of the jointly owned property. You should be aware that the legal process required to obtain a court order for a forced house sale like this does take time and can cost you a lot of money.

If at all possible, try to settle it out of court. Not just because of the costs but because the outcome could well be out of your hands and it could be that neither of you achieve the outcome you’d like.

What Can I Do when My Partner and I are Married but They Refuse to Sell?

This one can be difficult because you don’t want to fall out, but you both want a different outcome. As we mentioned earlier, take a look at the title deeds of the property and check whether both names are on the deed or just one. If there’s only one name on the title deeds, then that person has the right to stay in the property, but can’t force a sale. Meanwhile, the ‘non owner’ (the person not listed on the title deeds) has the right to continue living at the property alongside any children, even if the property is sold. 

In order to get the ‘non-owner’ removed, you would need to obtain their consent. If the ‘non-owner’ refuses to give consent and you feel they’re being, it’s time to get the court involved and have the right to consent removed from the ‘non-owner.  

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What Can I Do when My Partner and I are Divorcing?  

Although you may not want to hear this, your ex-partner will still have some rights over the shared property, stopping you from forcing a sale, even if you’re the sole owner of the property. 

They will be able to protect themselves with a matrimonial home rights notice, meaning you’re not able to sell the property, nor increase the house repayments, without notifying them so that they have an opportunity to dispute any decision.  

If you and an ex-partner are unable to come to an agreement, you will likely need to involve a lawyer for extra help in reaching a solution. Whilst the courts will always be an option for you, try to solve the situation out of court; especially if children are going to be involved. 

Whenever children are involved in a divorce, the courts will always take into consideration their welfare and needs and treat this as the top priority. Generally, a court will try to keep younger children in the family home to reduce the disruption to their lives and daily routine (such as going to school). 

If this is put in place, the primary caregiver of the children will be more likely to be able to remain in the property. 

Sometimes an order will be introduced so that the house cannot be sold until certain conditions are met. The children will be able to remain in the property, until a certain event occurs, such as until the last child turning 18 or until all the children have finished their education.  

What Can I Do when My Partner and I are Joint Tenants, but They Refuse to Sell? 

If you’re joint tenants, you will all have equal rights to the property. In order to be able to force a sale, you will need to sever your joint tenancy and convert the status to ‘tenants in common’. To do that you’ll need to buy out your partner.  

Buying out your partner means you take over their share of the property and house repayments, making it entirely your responsibility to maintain and pay for the property.  

The partner who is being bought out will have their name removed from the title deeds when it is transferred to you. When your partner has been bought out, you can then sell the property.

Alternatively, if you are tenants in common and need to force a sale, you might have to apply to the courts for an ‘order of sale’. The potential responses you can expect to receive are: 

  • Refusal for a sale 
  • Refusal for a sale but an order is made to regulate the right to occupy the property 
  • Order a sale 
  • Order a sale but suspend the order for a short period  

The decision you receive will be based on: 

  • The welfare of children who may live with you 
  • The interests of secured creditors (such as your house repayments lender) or any beneficiaries 
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What’s the Difference Between Joint Tenants and Tenants in Common?

In the last section we discussed what happens if you’re joint tenants or tenants in common, but what do these terms mean? 

Tenants in common means that each party owns a specific share of the property. This doesn’t have to be an equal split; one party could own 60% of the property and the other party own 40%. 

If you’ve bought a house as tenants in common, you might already have a ‘Trust Deed’ or ‘Declaration of Trust’ that was drawn up at the point of sale. This is a legal document that details the percentage share of equity owned by each party as well as how one party can buy out the other. 

Joint tenancy is normally more popular amongst those who are purchasing with a relative or a partner. This is because each party owns the property equally and contributes equally to the property bills. Another bonus of joint tenancy is the lower legal fees, due to the process being less complex and fewer documents required. 

Tenants in common may be suitable for you if you’re buying a property with someone for investment purposes. Being tenants in common means it’s possible for each tenant to own a different proportion of shares, but everyone still has rights to the whole property. 

I Can’t Afford to Buy My Partner’s Share in the Property; What Can I Do?

If you’re unable to afford your partner’s share of the property, and talking isn’t helping you to reach a conclusion, you could suggest that the property is sold and money from the sale is split between both parties. 

In situations like this, and especially if you’re selling the house due to divorce, you’ll want a quick, hassle-free sale with a cash buying company that can act as a mediator to help you both come to an agreement and sell the property.

How Does a Cash Buying Company Work?  

Companies that buy houses will buy your house fast for cash, usually within 30 days, with most completing the sale within 7 days. When you speak to a house buying company, they’ll ask for your details and those of the property, after which they’ll have a valuation. Then they’ll give you an offer. If you accept the offer, they will process the payment and you should receive funds in your account within a few days.  

A cash buyer will work with motivated sellers to push through a fast sale. Their job is to buy properties that are either difficult to sell or whose owners need cash in their bank account very quickly. This can be perfect in the event of a divorce where you don’t need the selling process to drag on.   

To achieve these super-fast sales, a seller will take a hit on their price. Cash buyers typically offer around 80% of the current market rate.  

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It’s important to note that there’s little regulation in this industry so anyone can set up a business and say they’re a cash buyer. However, that doesn’t mean they have cash or that they’re competent. It’s up to you to do your due diligence and check where their money comes from and the level of experience they have.

For your own security, check that the company is a member of the National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB) and The Property Ombudsman. This will give you independent help if there’s a dispute and also means that they have to abide by a code of conduct.   

Get everything in writing, for extra peace of mind. This way, you can recheck any details and you’ll have evidence of the price that was offered to you for your property. And on that topic, make sure that the offer they give you for your property is fixed. It’s not uncommon for some less scrupulous companies to gazunder sellers; reduce their offer at the last minute which leaves you with little choice but to accept.

How Quickly Can a Sale Go Through?

It is possible to sell a property in just 30 days if you use a cash buyer. As they’ll often be using their own money (if they are a legitimate company), no time is wasted sorting out mortgages and they won’t be in a chain, so your sale won’t fall through.  

Anything Else I Should Know About Cash Buying Companies?

There are review websites (such as allAgents) that collate feedback on estate agents, online agents and fast sale cash buyers. Have a look at the comments that have been left by people who have sold or are selling so that you can see how they were treated and if they received a good service (and a good price).  

On the topic of price, you’ll also want to find out how each of the different companies reach their valuation for your property. The amount that a fast sale company will offer to you for your property will depend upon the individual company. Some of the most reliable cash buying companies will use independent valuations to decide on a figure and show you the evidence that has enabled them to decide on that number. 

Meanwhile, other companies may not use such respected methods and instead flatter you with a higher offer on the phone; only to reduce it when they visit your property. It’s essential to ensure that the valuation you get is a ‘no obligation’ valuation; meaning you’re not forced to sell to that company just because they visited and valued it.   

Any Questions?  

We hope this article has helped you to understand what to do in different situations when you’re selling a house and your partner refuses. If you would like to speak to us about a fast and guaranteed cash sale for your home, call us or send an email 


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