Can a Husband Sell a House Without His Wife?

If a husband wants to sell a house, he'll need his wife's permission and cooperation if she legally has ownership rights. The deed is used to designate ownership rights, but in certain cases additional factors determine if both spouses must agree to the sale.

Joint Ownership

If the deed lists the husband and wife as "joint tenants," both have a shared interest in the property. If one spouse passes away, the survivor automatically becomes the sole owner. Both spouses will need to sign the deed to sell the home.

However, if the home is titled as "tenants in common," a spouse can sell his share of the property without the other spouse's consent. Both parties have a separate and distinct interest in the home.

Community Property States

In a community property state, all debts incurred and assets accumulated by either spouse during the marriage are classified as joint property. If the home was acquired during the marriage, the wife's name doesn't have to be on the deed for her to have ownership rights. She'll still need to sign as a grantor on the deed along with her husband to sell the home.

However, if the husband owed the property before the marriage and his wife isn't on the deed, the husband can legally sell the home without his wife. Community property states include:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Sole Ownership

If the husband doesn't live in a community property state and only his name is on the deed, he doesn't need his wife's approval to sell. Only the legal owner has to sign over his ownership rights. Although it's rare, it's possible for the wife to be on the mortgage and not on the deed. In a community property state, she'd need to sign a homestead waiver in order for the husband to obtain a loan without her. In equitable distribution states, there's no waiver required.

Quitclaim Deeds

A quitclaim deed is used to transfer interest in the property. A couple can choose to add a name or take a name off the deed. The wife can "quit" her interest in the home by signing over her share to the husband, or vice versa. Quitclaim deeds commonly are used after divorce.