Do I need a solicitor to remove my ex from the property deeds?

If you are getting divorced, dissolving a civil partnership or legally separating, and you and your partner own a property together, you may need a conveyancing solicitor to carry out a ‘transfer of equity’.

Here's what you need to know:

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Couple signing transfer of equity deed transfer

What is a transfer of equity?

A 'transfer of equity' is when an existing owner of a property (or land) adds or removes one or more other people to the title (ownership) of the property.

If you are separating from your partner, one partner may decide to transfer their interest in the property to the other partner.

This is a legal process where the outgoing partner (the 'transferor') will need to be removed from the property deeds (title), leaving the remaining partner (the 'transferee') as the sole owner.

Do I have to ‘buy my ex out'?

A transfer of equity is often thought of as buying someone out; that is, paying an ex-partner money for their share in a property.

Transferring equity does not necessarily mean that any money changes hands. Separating couples can choose what they want to exchange equity for.

Equity can also be exchanged for assets, such as vehicles or household items. An ex-partner may even agree to be taken off the deeds for no payment at all.

You should consult with your conveyancing solicitor if an asset swap is being proposed.

How do I remove someone from the property deeds?

When transferring equity you or your conveyancing solicitor will:

  • Review the property’s title documents
  • Prepare transfer deed and other legal documents
  • Obtain the appropriate consents from the mortgage lender, landlords etc.
  • Register the Deed of Transfer (TR1 Form) at HM Land Registry (HMLR)
  • Complete the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) return form. (even if there is no SDLT payable).

Is the transfer process different if I am not married or in a civil partnership?

Your transfer of equity process for removing a joint-owner (other than your spouse or civil partner) from a jointly owned property, is essentially the same. There may, however, be different Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) implications.

Do I need to notify my mortgage lender?

If you decide to buy out your partner and there is an outstanding mortgage, you will need your mortgage lender's consent. The lender will need to be satisfied that you will be able to afford the mortgage as the sole mortgagor.

The mortgage lender will then need to give you written consent in order to remove the other party from the deeds to your house. The lender will require the change in ownership to be carried out by a solicitor.

Can't I just pay the mortgage myself rather than change the deeds?

Changing the title deeds can involve a lot of legal paperwork. Sometimes couples informally agree that one partner will take on the other’s share of the mortgage, with a view to ‘working it out later’ - when the property is sold.

This informal approach can cause problems down the line, however. If your ex-partner is still named on the property's title, they will continue to own a share of it, even if you have been paying the mortgage on your own.

Even if your ex-partner says they don't want to retain their interest in the house at the point of separation, it can be very difficult to predict future circumstances. The ex-partner will retain their legal stake in the property, so if your relationship becomes acrimonious, you could face a costly and complicated legal battle.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

If you receive a property (or share in a property) as part of a court order or agreement because you are divorcing, dissolving a civil partnership, legally separating or annulling a marriage, there is usually no SDLT to pay.

What if I am not married or in a civil partnership?

Your options for removing a joint-owner (other than your spouse or civil partner) from a jointly owned property, the process is broadly similar to for removing a partner.

If you are transferring equity when separating from a partner and you are not married or in a civil partnership, SDLT is payable on the 'chargeable consideration'.

The chargeable consideration is the amount of debt transferred or taken on (the mortgage) plus the amount being paid for the equity.

Read more:

Do I pay Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) on a transfer of equity?.

Do I need a solicitor to carry out the transfer of equity?

Transferring equity in a property is a legal process. This process is normally completed by a conveyancing solicitor and is usually a quick and inexpensive process.

The process can get complicated - especially if there is a mortgage or if the property is leasehold. If there is an existing mortgage which will not be paid off at the point of transfer, the lender will require you to instruct a conveyancing solicitor to complete the transfer.

If there is not a mortgage, you could complete the transfer process yourself. However, it is critical that the transfer and registration process is completed correctly, as any errors could have legal and tax implications.

Using a conveyancing solicitor will ensure that no technical or legal mistakes are made.

Completing a transfer of equity through a solicitor is typically inexpensive and gives you complete peace of mind.

Get a Transfer of Equity Conveyancing Quote

If you decide to do it yourself

If you do choose to change your property deeds without a solicitor, you can find the relevant forms on the HM Land Registry website. It’s also a good idea to obtain a copy of the official register beforehand, which costs £3 for an online copy.

You will then need to complete three separate forms available on the Gov.uk website:

  • AP1 Form - This is your application to change the register. You’ll need information about your local council, details of the applicants as well as information about any documents which you are enclosing, such as birth and marriage certificates.
  • TR1 Form - This form is about transferring the property. Before you fill this in, you will need to find out if the property is registered, and whether there are any clauses or restrictions that require action before the transfer can take place. This must be signed by both of the property owners.
  • ID1 Form - This is a form which will verify your identification. You will need to take this to a solicitors’ firm in order to obtain certification of your identity, and some firms may charge a fee for this. You’ll be required to bring a valid form of photo ID, such as a passport or a (full) photocard driving licence from the UK, EU, Isle of Man or the Channel Islands. As well as this, you’ll need proof of address in two forms.

Once you have completed all of these forms and compiled the relevant paperwork, you can then send them to HM Land Registry at the following address:

HM Land Registry
Citizen Centre
PO Box 74
Gloucester
GL14 9BB

How long does the process take?

You can expect a solicitor to complete the process in a few weeks. If there is a mortgage in place, the process can take longer depending on your lender's requirements.

How we can help you

Whether you are gifting a property to a child, getting married or separating, or transferring equity for any other reason, we can help you find an expert conveyancing solicitor. Even if you are just looking for advice, we can help.

If you are also planning to remortgage as part of the transfer process, the remortgage legal work can be completed at the same time as your transfer of equity.

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Chris Salmon, Director

Author:
Chris Salmon, Director