Can I Force the Sale of a Jointly Owned Property?

a house cut in half by a hand - blog post about forcing a sale of a jointly owned property

If you co-own a property with another person or persons, what happens if one of you wants to sell and the other(s) don’t? 

As property prices have risen significantly faster than salaries, joint ownership has become popular. Married or cohabiting couples have been buying homes together for decades, but a growing number of people are seeking a “mortgage mate”, in the form of a friend or family member, to help them get their first foot onto the property ladder. 

Whatever the relationship between the co-owners, you might be wondering, “Can I force the sale of a jointly owned property?” — read on to find out the answer.

Tenants in Common

There are several ways people can own a property together. The most common being a “tenancy in common” and a “joint tenancy”. Both confer joint ownership, but there are some important differences that will affect how easy it is to force the sale of the property. 

Tenants in common jointly own the property, but they may own a different percentage of it. For example, tenant A may own a 60% interest in the property, and tenant B owns the remaining 40%. However, ownership is 50:50 by default, and this is the most common scenario. Each party independently owns their interest in the property rather than both/all parties jointly owning the entire property. 

If one tenant no longer wants a stake in the property, they can either sell their share — to a new owner or one of the existing tenants — or force a sale of the whole property by applying to the court for an “order for sale”

Joint Tenants

Joint tenants co-own the whole property, rather than holding shares that can be sold independently. 

If joint tenants disagree about whether to sell the property or not, the tenant who wishes to sell must change the joint tenancy into tenants in common by applying for a “notice of severance”. The Land Registry will also have to be informed so that it can amend the title to the property.

If you’re not sure whether you have a tenancy in common or a joint tenancy, check with the Land Registry. It will charge £3 to provide the information you need. If the register includes the following words, “No disposition by a sole proprietor of the registered estate (except a trust corporation) under which capital money arises is to be registered unless authorised by an order of the court” as well as the names of the owners, you are tenants in common. 

‘Can I Force the Sale of a Jointly Owned Property?’ — Obtaining an ‘Order for Sale’

The process is fairly straightforward, and you can obtain an order for sale without appointing a solicitor. However, if there are added complications, such as resident dependents, it may be wise to seek legal advice.

The first step is to complete an N208 form. You will need to provide details of the outstanding debt and the estimated sale price as well as certain pieces of documentation, such as a witness statement that explains who the other owners are. 

The form will be submitted to your nearest county court, which will reach a judgement. If the order of sale is granted, the property can then be sold. The claimant can request that specific conditions be attached to the order, for example, a minimum sale price. 

The tenant or tenants who do not want to sell have the right to oppose the order and request that the claim is rejected or postponed. 

An Alternative to Court Action

If it is possible to reach an amicable agreement to sell, this is always preferable for everyone involved. 

Consider inviting a mediator to join the discussion. A mediator acts as someone objective who can facilitate discussions and help the tenants reach an agreement. Emotions may be running high and an intermediary could calm the waters sufficiently to allow for constructive conversation and compromise. There are professional mediation services available. Alternatively, you may have a friend or acquaintance who has no affiliation to one party or the other who could step in to help.

Sell Your Property Fast

Whether you reach an amicable agreement to sell via mediation or obtain an order for sale, a quick house sale will help all parties to move on swiftly. If the decision to sell has been enforced by court order, there is likely to be ongoing disagreement and tension between you and the other tenants. This could become increasingly unpleasant and stressful if you have to wait for months for the property to sell on the open market. 

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