Can I change the locks on my house?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I change the locks on my house?

I bought a house with my ex-fiance. We have not lived together for the past 9 months. I’ve paid all the bills and I live in the house. Can I prevent her from entering the house when I’m not there?

Asked on September 3, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Rhode Island


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If you "bought a house" with her, then presumably you are both on the title or deed. If you are, then you are *both* owners of the home, and she has fully equal rights to you in terms of her right to use, occupy, and live in the house. She cannot lock you out; you cannot lock her out. That you have been paying  the bills or actually living there does NOT change her ownership or rights, though it may give you a right to seek compensation from her.
You can try to voluntarily buy her out; or see if she will buy you out; get her agreement that the two of you will sell the house and split the proceeds--with some adjustment, which the two of you agree to, for the extra bills you paid; or if necessary get a court order requiring that the house be sold and the proceeds, after paying the costs of sale and any mortgages, etc., be divided between you. (The court order can also give you a larger share, to reflect the costs you paid which she did not.) If you want to purse the court order route, speak with a real estate attorney about bringing an action "for partition."

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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