If 2 unmarried people share a mortgage and they decide to separate so 1 moves out, can the other change the locks on the home that they co-own?

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If 2 unmarried people share a mortgage and they decide to separate so 1 moves out, can the other change the locks on the home that they co-own?

In the process of a separation from my long term partner. He is moving out but claims to have the right to enter the home anytime as his name is on the mortgage too. Can I change the locks once he is completely moved out? I would appreciate any advice on this matter.

Asked on May 9, 2017 under Real Estate Law, New Hampshire

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Whether or not his name is on the deed is what matters; being on the mortgage is not relevant here. If he is a titled owner, then he has the right to the use and possession of the premises even if he no longer esides there. On the other hand, if he is not a legal ower, then you can change the locks since being on the mortgage only does not impart ownership rights. For a more permanent solution to this situation, you should see if you can refinance the property in your name only and use the loan proceeds to buy out his interest in the property. If he won't agree to sell, you may be able to force him to by filing for a "partition" action in court (actually this would be a "sale in lieu of partition"). This is a legal remedy employed when co-owners cannot agree as to ownership matters. Basically a judge can order a sale of the property but before it is put on the open market, any owner who wants to retain it is given the legal right to buy out any owner who no longer wants the property. At this point, you should consult directly with a local real estate attorney who can best advise you further. 


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