Property Ownership Dispute: Know Your Rights

Property Ownership Disputes: Know Your Rights

You may have jointly purchased a house with your girlfriend/ boyfriend, relative or business partner. If the relationship has broken down then you may be involved in a messy and complicated property ownership dispute. Any financial claims for ownership over the property will be governed by principles of property and trust law, not family law.

What happens to the house if you split up with your ex?

If you jointly own the house with your ex, you will both need to decide who will remain the sole owner of the house. This will depend on a case-by-case scenario. If you cannot come to an agreement, you may need to seek legal advice and ask the court to make a decision. There is a misconception that after you have lived together for a number of years, a boyfriend or girlfriend acquires the status of ‘common law’ husband or wife. No such legal principle exists.

If the house was purchased in one person’s name, you may still have a claim for an interest in the house. For more information, please see ‘Can I claim ownership of my ex partner’s property if it is solely owned by them?’

Is your ex refusing to sell, or buy out your share in the house?

In a property ownership dispute, the parties have two options. One party buys out the other’s share of the property. Alternatively, If a party is unable to raise funds or obtain a mortgage, then the property is sold and the proceeds equally between the parties, or as ordered by the Court. A reasonable amount of time should be provided for the other party to obtain a mortgage or make an attempt to purchase the house and resolve the property ownership dispute.

It is recommended any request to your ex-partner for the home to be sold should be made in writing i.e. by email or message. If your ex refuses, then the correspondence can be used in Court to support your property ownership dispute and to assist in obtaining an order for the sale of the property.

Can you sell a house if one partner refuses?

If you jointly own a house with your ex/ relative/ business partner and they are refusing to sell, you may be wondering what your options are. You do not want to escalate the property ownership dispute. The answer lies in the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (’TOLATA’). Under Section 14 of TOLATA, you have the right to apply for an order for the sale of the house.

A County Court has the power to order the following:

  • You can ask the court to force the sale of the house,
  • You can take control of the sale of the house and appoint estate agents to advertise the sale of the house,
  • Once the house is sold the parties will receive a share of the proceeds,
  • If a party is being completely unreasonable by failing to sign the property transfer documents, the Court may order a Judge/ Property Solicitor to sign the property transfer documents which will be accepted by the Land Registry.

The Courts will also take into consideration the welfare of any minor who occupies or might reasonably be expected to occupy the home in accordance with Section 15 of TOLATA. Please note a Property Tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to make such an order.

What are the costs involved in a property ownership dispute?

For property ownership disputes, we offer a number of funding arrangements such as Fixed Legal Costs Litigation. During the Free Consultation Call, the initial stage will be quoted on a fixed fee basis. Please note in the majority of cases the successful party will be able to recover 70% of the legal costs from the losing party.

Parties involved in a property ownership dispute should consider whether early mediation is a possibility to negotiate a settlement. Mediation can be highly successful. For more information, read our blog Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Case Study

Mr Usman Anwar, Legal Director at Anwar Legal, acted in a cohabitee property ownership dispute between Ms Windsor and Mr Neate relating to a property worth £350,000 in the County Court at Manchester.

Ms Windsor wanted the jointly owned house to be sold. However, Mr Neate obstructed the sale of a jointly owned property that he occupied. After a trial at the County Court at Manchester, an Order for the sale of the property was obtained, a division of equity in my client’s favour, plus payment of legal costs.


In conclusion, if your ex is refusing to sell a jointly owned property, you have the right to apply for an order for sale or an injunction under TOLATA. However, it’s important to seek legal advice to ensure that you understand your rights and options.

Contact Us

If you seeking a property disputes lawyer, we can help your case. To book a Free Consultation Call, with Mr Usman Anwar Legal Director, you can complete the Contact Us Form or email us on

Still not convinced? Read some of our client’s success stories and testimonials on how they settled their disputes using our legal service.

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