We are asked many questions about property disputes, but most of the questions relate to co-ownership.We have put together the most common questions in this article to assist.
1. What happens if one person wants to sell a house and the other does not?
This is a common occurrence when more than one person owns a house but only one person wants to sell. In this scenario, if one person wants to sell, the house must be sold. The only way to prevent the house being sold (if you are the person who does not want to sell) is to buy the other person out. Some people are misinformed about their rights, assuming they can prevent a sale by simply saying no.
2. Can you sell a house if the other person does not want to?
This is a similar question to the previous, however, it is important to note that you cannot simply put a house on the market and sell it if the other owner is refusing to do so. You must obtain an appropriate court order. This involves issuing a claim and obtaining an order that the property must be sold. There can also be cost consequences for the person who has refused to sell.
3. What if you get a court order but the other person refuses to leave the house?
Usually, once you have begun court proceedings, the other party will have taken legal advice and will have been advised that the house will be sold. However, sometimes people just do nothing. If the person who co-owns the house is still in the property, you may need to ask the court to order them to leave and if they do not, it may be necessary to involve bailiffs to remove them – although it may not come to this, we have occasionally seen it. This can be dealt with as part of the Court process.
4. I own half a house. What are my rights?
If you own part of a house, you are entitled to access that house unless you have entered into an agreement for someone else to occupy the property. If there is a formal tenancy agreement in place, you will have to follow your obligations under the tenancy. If you have given someone permission to be at the property but there is no official agreement, they will usually occupy with a licence. You can withdraw permission on reasonable notice. If you have always had access and a co-owner then changes the locks and refuses you access, they would not usually be permitted to do this. If you cannot agree access between you, then you may need to get legal advice.
5. How much does it cost to force the sale of a house?
This is a difficult question as sometimes a simple letter before action can prompt the other party to seek legal advice and be advised that the property has to be sold. If you can resolve the issues without issuing a court claim, the costs may be between £750 plus VAT and £2,000.00 plus VAT. If court proceedings are necessary, the costs could be in the region of between £2,000.00 plus VAT to £12,000.00 plus VAT. There will also be court fees and you may need a barrister for a final hearing.
Often, co-ownership can be beneficial and usually will not result in problems. However, sometimes relationships change and this can bring about issues, which were not anticipated at the start.
If you are having any issues with a property dispute, please contact our Disputes Team to discuss your case and explore your options.