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

If you are getting divorced or separating and you and your partner own a property together, you may need to carry out a ‘transfer of equity’. If one of you decides to remain in the property, the partner will need to be removed from the property title (deeds) leaving you as the sole owner.

If there's no mortgage, you can complete a transfer of equity yourself or use a solicitor. If there is a mortgage your lender will require you to instruct a solicitor to complete the transfer. Here's what you need to know:

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Couple signing transfer of equity deed transfer

Do I have to ‘buy’ my ex out?

Most people think of a transfer of equity as buying someone out; that is, paying your ex-partner money for their share of the property. Whilst this is very common, a transfer of equity does not necessarily mean that any money changes hands. Separating couples can choose what they want to exchange equity for.

For example, equity can be given in exchange for assets, such as vehicles or household items. Your ex-partner may even agree to be taken off the deeds for no payment at all. You should consult with your solicitor if an asset swap is being proposed.

Consult your mortgage lender

If you decide to buy out your partner and there is an outstanding mortgage, you will need to speak to ask mortgage lender if they will accept you as a 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.

There may also be Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) considerations if the property is mortgaged. If one partner is buying out the other and money is changing hands, then Stamp Duty is charged on the 'chargeable consideration'. The chargeable consideration would be the amount of additional mortgage debt being assumed by the remaining part.

Stamp Duty is payable if there is a mortgage and you are taking over your partners share in the mortgage. Although counter-intuitive, when the equity in a property is transferred from one person to another, ‘chargeable consideration’ is calculated on the amount of debt transferred or taken on.

When transferring equity, Stamp Duty is payable on the amount of the mortgage being taken on by the new owner.

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

Can I just pay the mortgage myself rather than change the deeds?

Changing names on deeds can involve a lot of paperwork. Sometimes couples agree that one person will take on the other’s share of the mortgage, with a view to ‘working it out later’ should the house come to be sold.

However, this informal approach can cause problems down the line. If your ex-partner is still named on the deeds of the property, then they will continue to own their share of it, despite the fact that you are the one now paying the mortgage.

Even if your ex-partner says they don’t want the house now, it can be very difficult to predict future circumstances. They will still have a legal stake in the property when you come to sell it, so if your relationship breaks down further, this can result in costly and complicated legal battles years later.

How do I remove someone else from property deeds?

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

Someone can be removed from deeds if they give or sell their share to you. The share can also be transferred to another part-owner or to an entirely new party. There may be tax implications in each scenario, however, and you should seek professional advice from a tax advisor or accountant.

Do I need a solicitor?

Technically, no. Unless there is an existing mortgage in place, it is possible to remove a name from a title deed yourself without the help of a solicitor.

However, a conveyancing solicitor can ensure you have all of the correct documentation, complete the necessary forms for you, handle the SDLT return, remove the outgoing owner from the deeds and register the new ownership structure with HM Land Registry.

The transfer of equity process can be complicated and, for this reason, most people choose to instruct a solicitor.

If there is a mortgage on the property the lender will require you to instruct a solicitor.

If you choose 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 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
GL14 9BB

If you decide to use a solicitor

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.

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

Your next step

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

Chris Salmon, Director