It sucks to find out that your web designer owns your domain. This makes it very hard to re-design the website, change hosting, and many other things. It’s even harder if the web designer disappeared, or the web design company that registered your domain has gone out of business.
I recently had this problem with a website client. The client had gotten their website built by a web designer that also registered their domain. Trying to get back the control of the domain back was a big headache.
The problem that I had was that the company that registered the domain didn’t exist anymore, and the client didn’t know the name, or email of the business that made their website. I had to do a lot of digging to find out who to contact to get back the ownership of the domain.
If you don’t know how to get back the ownership of your domain, here’s 3 steps you can use to get back control of your domain from a web designer:
1. Find out the email of the domain owner
If you know the person or business that built your website, you can contact them directly. If you can’t remember who made your website or registered your domain, you can look up the contact details of the domain by using a whois lookup. Just type in the domain and you will find some details about who registered the website.
However, it’s possible to hide the contact email. Sometimes you will only find a private email. The private email will usually forward to the domain owner. You can send them a message about your domain. The private email listed might look like this:
If you can’t find any emails listed at all when you look up the domain, it gets tricky.
It’s possible that you own the account where the domain is registered, but that the web designer is listed as the domain owner. You can look at the registrar information to find out where the domain is registered.
In the example above, the domain is registered at GoDaddy. So, if you own an account at GoDaddy, you can log into your account to find out the email of the web designer that registered you domain.
In my case, the client’s website was hosted at Radicenter, and their domain was also registered through them. This is what you see when you login at Radicenter (it’s probably similar to other website hosts). I had to click to view the domains:
When I clicked on the domains, I could see a list of the domains owned by the account:
By clicking on the domain, I was able to find the contact information for the domain owner. This is what it looked like:
As you can see, the domain owner and email is listed here (the name isn’t shown here, but you will probably see the owner’s name).
The next problem that you might have is that the contact email for the domain is outdated, because the web design company has gone out of business. What you can do then is to look up the name of the domain owner and see if a company with that name exists. Then you have to call the owner or someone from customer support and tell them that you want to transfer your domain that they legally own.
2. Contact the domain owner
Ask the domain owner if they want to transfer the ownership of the domain to you. They might agree, or if they’re shady, they might ask you to buy it from them (that’s probably unlikely). If they agree to transfer the domain ownership, you need to contact the domain provider where the domain is registered (for instance, namecheap, GoDaddy).
3. Contact the domain provider
Contact the customer support of your domain provider (e.g. GoDaddy) and tell them you want to transfer the ownership of the domain. Tell them that your web designer registered the domain in their own name, and that they have agreed to transfer the domain to you.
The domain provider will probably ask for a written confirmation from your web designer to transfer the domain to you. If the email listed for the domain is outdated, they might also ask your web designer to prove that they own the domain. Transferring the domain might take a couple of days.
How I got back domain ownership
Transferring ownership of a domain can be messy. I initially gave up because the email listed for the domain didn’t exist anymore. What I had to do was log into the domain provider’s account and find the name of the company that registered the domain, and call that company.
I then sent an email to the domain provider about the transfer, and included the old owner in the emails. The old domain owner was able to prove his ownership, and give a written approval to transfer the domain. A couple of days later the contact details for the domain had updated with the correct owner.
What to do after you get back your domain?
If you get back your domain, your next step might be to transfer the domain to another domain provider, in which case you usually need to wait 60 days, for security reasons. If you need someone to re-design your website after you’ve gotten back your domain, contact me. I’ll make sure you always 100% own your website and domain.