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Guide to a Court Order to Sell a House

Published on February 3, 2016 by Aude Seynt Martin in News, Selling

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Whether you are faced with a court order to sell your house, or whether you’re the one having to file one, it can be a very stressful and confusing time. What was once a home full of beautiful new memories can quickly turn into a nightmare if your circumstances change. So why exactly might you end up facing a court order to sell a house in the UK and what should you do if you receive one?

Understanding a court order for sale of property

There are three main situations that could lead to you receiving or having to enforce a court order to sell house in the UK. These include:

  • You have split from your partner and need to sell
  • You have fallen into significant debt and cannot afford to repay it
  • A public body has declared your home needs to be sold for the greater public good

A split from a partner is the most common reason someone typically receives a court order to sell property. If you joint own the property and the relationship dissolves, you are faced with a number of options. A court order for sale of property is usually the last resort if a resolution cannot be made.

If you fall into debt and are unable to pay off the money you owe, the creditor can apply for a charging order. This forces you to sell the property in order to repay the loan. Many people don’t realise that this can happen regardless of whether the loan taken out was secured or unsecured.

It is very rare for a public body to issue a compulsory purchase order, though it doesn’t hurt to be aware of what would happen if you are given one. It basically means you could be forced to sell your home if a large official body wants to build a shopping centre or new road where your home currently resides. Or it could be that your property is deemed a danger to the public. These are the main reasons a compulsory purchase order can be filed. It is worth noting that a private individual company cannot legally force you to sell. Even professional government bodies can often take years to get the powers they need to force you to sell your home.

So these are the three types of court order to sell a house you could be faced with. The question is, what can you do if you’re facing one?

Legal implications of a court order


A court order can force you to sell the home, but it will depend upon a large range of factors. For example, if you have dependents this will be taken into account. Whether you are married to the person you own the house with will also determine how the house sale is handled. If you are married, what happens to the house will usually be determined in the divorce settlement. If you are unmarried then it can get a little more complicated. If you do have dependents, you may be allowed to stay in the family home until your children turn 18.

It’s advisable to try to reach a solution before the case is actually taken to court. Even with a court order to sell house, you still have the opportunity to reach a solution before a court date is set. So why would you want to do this? Well, going to court is going to be extremely expensive, no matter what the outcome. You can expect to pay anything from £2000 to £5000. It’s also going to be really stressful and can take a long time to reach a solution. Settling out of court is cheaper and a lot less stressful.

There are usually 3 things you can do when you’re presented with a court order to sell your property. These include:

  • Buying out your ex-partner’s share of the house
  • Agree to sell (click here to find out how to sell a house for cash after a divorce)
  • Go to court to fight the decision

Unfortunately for many people, buying their ex-partner’s share isn’t an option. If the court order has already been approved, you may find yourself forced with the decision to either buy your ex out or the property will be placed on the market on a set date.

One alternative to a court order to sell property is a consent order. This is a legally binding agreement you and your ex sign in relation to property, investments, money and savings. You can apply for one on the government website here. Having an agreement in writing will give you peace of mind that the decision you both come to cannot be altered in the future.

Applying to the court to sell property

If you’re the one wanting to sell the property but your ex doesn’t, you can apply for a court order through a solicitor. They will be able to help you through the process and explain your legal rights.

It is worth noting that the process of getting a court order and then enforcing that order can take months. There are circumstances where you may be able to send a certificate of urgency which could force a quicker sale. However, you would need to explain why the sale is urgent. This type of sale is usually granted in abuse cases.

If a loved one has split up from their partner and they don’t have the mental capacity to deal with the sale, a court of protection application to sell property can be issued. A decision will be made on behalf of the person, or a deputy will be appointed.

Overall it can be extremely daunting if you are faced with a court order to sell house; especially if you don’t have the funds to hire a solicitor. There are a lot of great resources online or you can visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau for free, confidential advice. Just because you are issued with an order does not automatically mean you will have to sell. It will depend entirely upon your personal circumstances.

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About the author
Aude Seynt MartinAude Seynt Martin is an ex French corporate lawyer with a Master Phil in Property Law. When she came to London, Aude gave up her career as a Lawyer to be involved in property. Having studied the market for more than two years and worked with very experienced landlords and professionals, Aude is now a Property Consultant, whose motivation is to come up with creative solutions to help overcome any property related situation.

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