Can you close a joint bank account without the other person?

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If you have a joint bank account, can you close the account without the other person? What happens if you’re a victim of financial abuse or domestic violence? Will your bank help you?

Joint accounts and domestic violence

Last week the SNP MP Dr. Lisa Cameron told the House of Commons about a constituent who’d been raped and beaten by her ex partner, against whom she had a court injunction. Despite this, her bank said that she could only close her joint bank account if she visited the bank branch with her abusive ex.

Some of you have told me you’ve had a similar experience when you’ve broken up with a partner you’ve had a joint account with and it’s been acrimonious. I wanted to know what the banks’ procedures are now, so I contacted the main banks and asked them how they let customers close a joint account and what they do if domestic abuse is involved. This is what they’ve told me (I’ll update this article as more banks respond).

Closing a joint account

Normally both people have to agree to a joint account being closed. But there are situations when that’s not necessary. And it certainly shouldn’t be the case that both people have to go to the bank branch together – although in practice, that obviously does still go on.

HSBC

How are joint accounts closed?

HSBC said it understands that no two separations are the same and many will not be amicable for various reasons, including domestic violence. To help those customers whose separation is not amicable, closing a joint account can be arranged over the phone by one party as long as the account balance is zero.

If the account is in credit, overdrawn or there’s a dispute on the account, customers would have to close the account in a branch. However, they wouldn’t have to visit the branch with their partner/ex as it doesn’t have to be done in their presence at the same time.

What does HSBC do if a customer is a victim of domestic abuse?

HSBC said that it works hard to take all factors into account and deal empathetically and efficiently with situations like this. It says that it is working with UK Finance and other financial service providers to agree a consistent approach.

Lloyds Banking Group (Lloyds Bank, Halifax Bank and Bank of Scotland)

How are joint accounts closed?

The standard procedure for closing a current account is for customers to visit a branch or to write to the bank. Customers can also call the bank and they’ll send a closure pack out in the post. Both customers need to give permission to close a joint account or remove one party. They can do this separately in writing or by going into a branch on their own.

What does Lloyds, Halifax or Bank of Scotland do if a customer is a victim of domestic abuse?

There’s a range of things the banks can do, including:

  • Protecting funds when there are disputes on joint accounts.
  • Adding notes to the customer’s account when contact details need to be kept confidential to ensure staff are aware of this.
  • Letting someone who’s been a victim of domestic abuse open an account with a PO Box address to protect information about where they live.
  • Supporting customers who have been duped or coerced.
  • Helping customers with financial difficulty and giving them details of charities and organisations that can offer additional support.

M&S Bank

How are joint accounts closed?

M&S Bank says that while many current account providers will simply block a joint account once they’ve been told that a couple are separating, the bank will speak to both parties to understand what’s happened and to offer a bespoke solution to meet their circumstances.

What does M&S Bank do if a customer is a victim of domestic abuse?

If a customer with a joint account is in a vulnerable position and needs to leave the family home, they can arrange for a separate sole account to be set up. All the documents can be sent to an alternative address, such as emergency housing, without contacting the other joint account holder.

What the banking industry says

UK Finance, which represents the banking industry, says it’s planning to introduce a voluntary code of conduct. It says it’s been examining recent research and working alongside stakeholders to establish the role that the financial services industry can play in combating financial abuse and assisting victims of abuse.

In a statement it told me that “it aims to develop a voluntary industry code of practice to help guide the response of financial institutions when dealing with victims. It will also establish the role the financial services industry can play in helping to raise awareness about financial abuse, and empower victims to regain control of their finances by making informed decisions, suitable to the specifics of the abusive relationship they are or were in.”

What’s your experience? You can message me via SavvyWoman’s Facebook page if you’ve had problems closing a joint account or have been a victim of financial abuse and your bank hasn’t been helpful.

Related articles:

VIDEO: How to protect your finances if you have joint accounts and split with your partner

Three quarters of people don’t know the rules on joint bank accounts

Not happy with your financial provider? Complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service; it’s free

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