“Who owns my website domain? is often the first question that a new client asks, and with good reason. Your website domain is the key to your entire website, and losing access to it can do significant damage to your online presence. You can move servers, upgrade your CMS (content management system) or change to a completely different web language but your website domain will always stay the same. You should always take care to ensure that you or your company owns your domain, as taking control of a domain owned by someone else can be a very difficult process.

Who Else Might Own My Domain?

The first place to check is with whoever built your website – in the olden days, it was quite common for web designers to register the domain to themselves without realising that this could be a problem. In most cases, it was a genuine mistake and asking for the domain ownership to be transferred to the client was all that was needed to put things right. However, we have come across a few examples of web designers refusing to release the domain because they were unhappy that the client was moving on to a new web designer. As a result, even if you’re really happy with your web designer, it’s always worth checking to see who owns your domain.

How Can I Check Who Owns My Domain?

It’s much easier than you may think. If you own a .co.uk or .org.uk domain you can click here to check with Nominet, and for other domains you can click here to check the with ICANN.

What’s the Difference Between Hosting and Owning a Domain?

Just because a web design agency registers a domain for you doesn’t necessarily mean that they own it. Any good webmaster will register the domain in your name, which means they control how the domain works and which servers it points to, but ultimately the ownership is still with you. If the web designer registers it in their own account, then they are hosting it for you, and if they register it in an account that you own (for example, you may have a GoDaddy, Namesco, 1&1 Internet or 123-reg account) then you’re hosting it yourself. In either case, the domain should always be registered in your name so that you retain ownership.

What Do I Do if I Lose Access to My Domain?

It can be very difficult to get a domain back if someone else is technically the owner, even if you’ve been paying them to host it for you. The first thing to do is simply ask politely for it to be transferred to you. It’s a very quick task, so there shouldn’t really be any cost involved in this, but if the web designer or agency in question asks for a reasonable fee for their time it’s probably worth paying it just to get the domain back. If the owner refuses however, then things can get tricky, and can often result in a long, drawn-out court battle.

What if I Own the Domain but the Host Won’t Give It Back?

This is where you’re in luck, and precisely why you should always keep your domain registered in your name. If you don’t host the domain and don’t have access to it, but it is registered in your name, then most of the time you can simply transfer it back directly through Nominet or the registrar in question.

Where Can I Go If I Get Stuck?

You can always ask us, we’ll do our best to advise the best course of action. We’ve overseen the domain transfer process countless times, so we’ll quickly be able to advise the best way to proceed. You can also try contacting the registrar in question directly. If you’re not sure what to do, please contact us and we’ll let you know what to do.