Can I change the locks on my house?

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Can I change the locks on my house?

I bought a house with my ex-fiance. We have not lived together for the past 9 months. I’ve paid all the bills and I live in the house. Can I prevent her from entering the house when I’m not there?

Asked on September 3, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Rhode Island

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If you "bought a house" with her, then presumably you are both on the title or deed. If you are, then you are *both* owners of the home, and she has fully equal rights to you in terms of her right to use, occupy, and live in the house. She cannot lock you out; you cannot lock her out. That you have been paying  the bills or actually living there does NOT change her ownership or rights, though it may give you a right to seek compensation from her.
You can try to voluntarily buy her out; or see if she will buy you out; get her agreement that the two of you will sell the house and split the proceeds--with some adjustment, which the two of you agree to, for the extra bills you paid; or if necessary get a court order requiring that the house be sold and the proceeds, after paying the costs of sale and any mortgages, etc., be divided between you. (The court order can also give you a larger share, to reflect the costs you paid which she did not.) If you want to purse the court order route, speak with a real estate attorney about bringing an action "for partition."


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