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What Circumstances Can You Force a House Sale?

Written by, Marija Petkova

Updated September, 21, 2022

Selling a house without the other owner(s)’s consent can be a tricky business. 

So, in what circumstances can you force a house sale? 

Read on to find out. 

What Circumstances Can You Force a House Sale in the UK?

The only way to force the sale of a property that you don’t entirely own is to apply for an ‘order for sale’.

An ‘order for sale’ is essentially a court judgement that orders the sale of a property. 

Whether you can apply for an ‘order for sale’ and force a house sale depends on how the property is co-owned. 

  • Tenancy in common: Tenants in common own a distinct share of the property and can apply for an order of sale without having to make any changes to the agreement.
  • Joint tenancy: If you’re joint tenants (and you co-won the entire property rather than separate shares), you will first have to sever the joint tenancy before you’re in a position to apply for an order for sale.

But, you don’t necessarily have to own a share in a property to be able to force its sale. 

For example, lenders can also force the sale of a house as part of secured loans.

In most cases, they use an ‘order for sale’ to enforce a charging order, where they essentially take over your interest in a property due to unpaid debt (usually related to unsecured loans). 

Note that your creditor cannot apply for a charging order unless they obtain a County Court Judgement against you. 

Outcomes of an Order for Sale

When you apply for an ‘order for sale’, the court has the power to issue a number of judgments, depending on the case’s circumstances. 

The court can:

Order a sale 

The court usually grants an ‘order for sale’ application in its entirety when:

  • There are numerous joint tenants, and the majority want to sell the property.
  • The property was purchased as an investment, in which case a legal owner can be entitled to a sale. 
  • The purpose for which the property was bought has failed (For example, if the property was bought as a marital home and the owners divorce or break up.)

Order a sale but delay the request for a specified duration.

The court can issue an order to sell the house but suspend the sale for a specified amount of time to give the co-owner time to purchase the other tenant’s beneficial interest. The cost of the leaving co-owner’s interest is usually calculated based on the property’s fair value. 

In some cases, the court may delay the sale of the order for a longer period, especially if it’s a children’s home. If the court believes that selling the home would be unfair to the children, they can defer it until the youngest child turns 18.

Refuse a sale

The courts can only approve an ‘order for sale’ application if it meets the requirements outlined in the 14th and 15th Section of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.

For example, the court will refuse an application for a forced sale of a property if the property was bought under an agreement that co-owners cannot sell it without the consent of others. 

Refuse a sale with restrictions on the right to occupy the property

In some cases, the court can reject an ‘order for sale’ application in cases where it deems that one party would unfairly suffer from the same or if the same is not socially acceptable.

For example, if one party leaves, the court may order the remaining owner to pay rent for the duration of their stay.

Order a partitioning of the co-owned property

Partitioning a co-owner property refers to the act of physically dividing the home, which is only applicable in exceptional cases. Once that’s done, the applicant will be able to force a sale of a part of the property.

Bottom Line 

Forcing the sale of a house can be a short and straightforward or a lengthy and complicated process. Regardless of your status, you’ll have to apply for an ‘order for sale’ to the court, but it will only be granted if you meet certain requirements. 

Note that the court can grant or refuse your application and impose certain restrictions based on your personal circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

Can I force the sale of a jointly owned property?

A can only happen if the court grants an ‘order for sale’.

How to sell a property in joint names?

If you’re in a joint tenancy, you’ll have to sever the tenancy to apply for an ‘order for sale.’ Tenants in common can apply without making any changes to the agreement.

Can I force the sale of my house?

You may be able to force a house sale if the majority of tenants want to sell the property, if the property was bought as an investment, and if the purpose of the property has failed.

How to sell a house when one partner refuses?

If your partner refuses to sell the house or refuses to sell their share to you, your only option is to apply to the court for an ‘order to sale’.

How much does it cost to force the sale of a house in the UK?

The cost depends on how long the process will last. Diem Legal reports that the fees can cost anywhere between £2,000 and £5,000, but you may end up paying more, especially if you have dependents. 

How long does it take to force a sale of property in the UK?

Applying for an ‘order for sale’ can take several months and more if the courts are busy or you’re in a situation that’s more complicated than usual. According to the House Buyer Bureau, on average, the entire process takes about 18 months.

What circumstances can you force a house sale in the UK?

The only way to sell a house without the other owner’s consent is to get an ‘order for sale’. If you meet the requirements and the court finds your arguments reasonable, they will likely grant your request.

My name is Marija, and I'm a financial writer at DontDisappointMe. Although finance might not be everyone's cup of tea, my 10+ years of working in one of the biggest banks in my country, and my interest in extensive research on everything finance/investment-related, have made me somewhat of an expert in the field (if I do say so myself). No longer having the passion to work in a corporate setting, I decided that I couldn't let all of this knowledge go to waste so I started writing. And, here I am! Today I try to share my knowledge with my audience in the hopes of making this topic as simple and interesting as possible. In my leisure time, I like spending time with my family and travelling to new locations.