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Under What Circumstances Can You Force a House Sale in the UK?

If you are a joint-owner of a property, there may come a time when you would like to sell.

However, this is not always easy to arrange – particularly if you wish to sell a joint-owned property in its entirety when the other parties involved are less keen to do so.

This can be particularly frustrating if there are time pressures involved. For example, many property owners wish to sell because they urgently need a lump sum of money fast.

So, if the other owner(s) of the property are digging their heels in, can you force a sale of a house?

In this guide, we’ll answer this question and explore other issues associated with forcing a property sale in the UK.

What is a Forced Sale of a House?

Forcing a property sale in the UK basically means to bring about a transaction without voluntary or affirmative action from one or more of its owners to support this action.

It is possible to go through the courts in order to see another party legally compelled to sell a property that you own jointly.

How to Force the Sale of a House

Below, we’ll go through the standard process of forcing a property sale via the County or High Court and explain the possible outcomes.

Order for Sale

A UK court of law must provide an “Order for Sale” before one joint-owner of a house may sell that property without the permission of the other parties named on the Land Registry.

Most commonly, action of this kind is taken during divorce proceedings where the separating partners cannot agree to sell their home or another jointly-owned asset.

Homeowners may also need to apply for a court order of this kind if they wish to dispose of secured property requiring a mortgage lender’s consent to sell – where the lender declines that consent.

This type of court action also represents a separate option for mortgage lenders if they have been unable to achieve a Part 55 Possession Claim under Civil Procedure Rules on the property in question.

An Order for Sale can be used by other creditors too. If your home constitutes collateral property on a loan or other financial contract, the lender may apply for a “Charging Order” if you act in breach of that contract.

If that order is granted by the court, the lender may then go on to apply for an Order for Sale, which, if successful, will allow them to take possession of the property and sell it in any way they wish.

Furthermore, the Official Receiver or trustee in a bankruptcy order may use an Order for Sale to access property associated with the estate of the bankrupt individual.

When Can You Force a House Sale in the UK?

When it comes to forcing a house sale in the UK, you will be able to apply for an Order for Sale if you legally share ownership of the property you wish to sell and you cannot come to an agreement with the other party.

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Usually, this kind of order comes into play during a divorce, where one half of the couple wishes to access the equity they own in half of a property that is split between the two of them.

If their ex-partner refuses to sell, and will not “buy them out” of the arrangement, the next port of call will usually be an Order for Sale.

Applicants for an order of this kind can instruct their solicitor to make the request on their behalf. Alternatively, they can apply directly to the County Court using form N208.

It is worth noting that if a claimant applies for an Order for Sale to claim an amount they are owed – and if that amount surpasses the current “County Court claims value”, which is currently £30,000 – their application may need to be sent to the High Court instead.

There must be sufficient equity in the property before an Order for Sale can be brought to court.

Potential Outcomes

It’s important to note that a court hearing resulting from an application of this kind will not necessarily find in the claimants’ favour. In fact, a range of outcomes are possible. Here, we’ll run through all the potential results of an Order for Sale.

Refusal of Sale

If you’re attempting to force a house sale, you need to be prepared for the court to reject your claim. There are a number of reasons why a sale may be refused. These include instances where:

  • One party is likely to be unfairly impacted by being forced to sell
  • There are dependants involved whose quality of life would suffer as a result of the Order being granted
  • There is insufficient or negative equity in the property, which means the Order cannot be made

Refusal of Sale with Regulated Right to Occupancy

The court may decline the request to sell, but may instead make adjustments to the occupation rights of the parties involved.

By regulating the right to occupancy, the court may enforce, control or restrict or revise a party’s right to occupy the property. This approach may be taken in order to achieve a fairer or more practical outcome.

Sale Granted

This will occur if the court finds that there are sufficient grounds to approve the Order for Sale, and that neither party (or any dependents) will be unfairly penalised as a result of this action.

Usually, a date for possession will then be determined. This will usually be set a number of weeks or months down the line in order to allow sufficient time for the relevant party to vacate the property.

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Sale Granted but Suspended

In some circumstances, the sale might be granted – but with a possession date some considerable time in the future.

For example, the date may be arranged to tie in with dependents reaching the age of 18 or leaving full time education in order to make it fair for everyone affected by the sale.

Other Options

On very rare occasions, the court may order the jointly-owned property to be physically partitioned and divided between the parties involved – though this is heavily dependent on the nature of the property.

How Much Does it Cost to Force a House Sale?

It’s important to budget carefully before applying to the court for an Order for Sale, to ensure that you will be able to cover all resulting legal fees.

So, how much does it cost to force the sale of a house in the UK?

Generally, the fees involved in taking action of this kind may fall between £2,000 and £5,000 – though it may cost more depending on the complexity of the case.

So, Can my Wife Force the Sale of Our House?

If your ex-spouse or civil partner wishes to sell a property that you own jointly, they may decide to apply for an Order for Sale if you are unwilling to buy them out or come to any other arrangement whereby they may access their portion of the equity.

However, there are alternatives; you may be able to divide your property in such a way that one party takes over full ownership and the other receives alternative assets amounting to an equal or fair sum.

You may also realise that “buying out” is a viable option after all.

“Buying Out” a Joint Owner

If you have a mortgage on your jointly-owned property, one owner may “buy the other out” by refinancing that mortgage with their existing lender. This may incur an Early Repayment Charge (ERC).

They may wish to remortgage, or to swap their existing mortgage for a different, more suitable product in order to achieve the correct outcome.

The routes available will depend on the specific conditions of the owners’ current mortgage and lender, as well as any other financial arrangements that are currently in place.

If the property is owned outright between the couple, the situation may seem a little more straightforward. However, if one wishes to buy the other out, but does not have the money to hand, they may need to take out a mortgage in order to do so.

Can the Council Force the Sale of Property?

Might there be any other way in which you might be forced to sell your property? For example, might your local council be able to get you to leave your home to make room for a regeneration project or for any other reason?

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Councils are able to apply for Compulsory Purchase Orders – or CPOs – which, if granted, will invoke governmental powers in order to force you to sell. However, it is absolutely possible to object to a CPO or attempt to renegotiate its terms with the assistance of surveyors and/or solicitors.

If a council’s CPO is successful, they will compensate the owner of the property or land in question. This will usually amount to the value of the property, plus any additional costs incurred as a result of relocation, loss of income from the property or anything similar.

How Long Does it Take to Force the Sale of Property?

In the UK, a typical Order for Sale can take months to finalise. On occasion, this may stretch to a year and a half – or even more depending on the complexity of the issue.

What’s more, if the court grants the sale but suspends it, it may be years before the final transaction can take place.

It’s important to be prepared for a significant wait if you plan to take legal action to force a property sale. For this reason, you must be absolutely sure that this is the best and most sensible course of action before you prepare to apply to the court for this purpose.

So – can someone force the sale of a house? Absolutely, if they apply to the court with a strong enough case. The time it is likely to take – and the amount it is likely to cost – will vary depending on their specific circumstances.

Any Questions?

We hope that this guide to forcing a property sale will help you to better understand your options and enable you to make an effective plan to move forward.

If you have any questions about selling your property fast for cash, feel free to get in touch with our team of specialists as soon as possible.

They will be very happy to undertake an expert “desktop valuation” and provide you with a no-obligation cash offer straight away. If you are happy to accept that offer, they will be able to sell your property in as few as 7 – 21 days.

Legal fees will be covered, and the entire process will be managed by us, with a heavily reduced likelihood of fall-throughs and chain collapses – resulting in a smooth and hassle-free sale.For further information, contact us today.


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