When a relationship has ended and one partner has moved out of the home, it can seem sensible to have the locks changed to prevent them from popping back in or removing items without your permission. However, it’s rarely as simple as that. In fact, there are actually very few circumstances in which you can change the locks without consequences if your former partner objects.
Can I change the locks if we have previously been living together?
If you have been living together, whether you can change the locks after a separation depends on the nature of your tenancy agreement if you have rented a property, or the ownership status if you have bought the house.
If you are renting a property and both of your names are on the tenancy agreement, or if you own your home in joint names, you cannot exclude your ex from the address without a court order. If you do change the locks in such circumstances, your former partner may be permitted to effectively break back in so long as they only use ‘reasonable force’ and repair any damage.
If you are the person who has been prevented from entering a property and your name was on the tenancy agreement or jointly owned it, then you are within your rights to call on the services of a locksmith to gain entry, so long as any damage during the process is repaired.
Can I change the locks if the house was solely in my name?
If you rent a property only in your name or only your name is on the title deeds and mortgage paperwork, then you may be able to change the locks. However, if you are married, in a civil partnership, or have been living with your ex for a long time, then they may still have the right to live in the property and to enter it.
In certain circumstances, they may even be able to apply for a court order to regain entry and even to exclude you from it. However, they can not force entry if it can be shown that they are aware that the person inside will object to this and to use violence to do so would be an offence.
Can I change the locks if a breakup was acrimonious or violent?
If you are concerned about your ex returning to the property, particularly if you’re worried about their behaviour and whether they will expect to live in the home again, you can apply to the court for an occupation order to determine who lives in the house. A non-molestation order can also be applied for if you are at risk of being intimidated or pestered. It will also help your case if you can show that your former partner actually has somewhere else to live and that it will benefit you to live in peace in the home.
In the first instance, it is always worth attempting to reach an agreement on who will live in the property and how visits to it will be arranged in future.
If this is not possible, it is a good idea to seek legal advice before you proceed with changing the locks. This can seem onerous, particularly if the breakup was difficult and you have a lot of other things to sort out. However, changing the locks without consultation can be seen as an aggressive first move and can worsen a situation if you still have lots of other things to discuss with an ex.
At LockOut247, we deal with a lot of situations where partners have broken up and there are issues about access and changing the locks. For an informal chat, or to book our services, send us a message.