Now and then we come across business owners who are desperate to get their domain name back because their web designer registered the domain name in their own name instead of their client’s.
Nobody “owns” a domain name. Your domain registrar leases you (the registrant) sole right to use your domain name. If an agent (e.g. a web designer) uses their own name as the registrant when they register your domain name for you then your agent ends up being the registrant, and they technically have sole usage rights for the domain name instead of you.
Any sensible person can see that the registrant should have been you and not your web designer, but domain registrations operate with strict security and ownership policies so it can be hard to reclaim your domain name if it’s been registered incorrectly.
Being a perpetual optimist, I prefer to think of this practice as lazy rather than malicious. Either way, it’s a terrible practice that I’ve seen far too many times. So here is the simplest way I know to reclaim your domain name after having to do it too many times over the last 20 years. Hopefully this guide will make this high stress situation easier.
Step 1 – Transfer The Domain
Contact your ex-web designer and ask them to send you a “UDAI key” for your domain name. It can pay to tread lightly here because you are in a vulnerable position and if there is any animosity, an unscrupulous web designer could cut off your website AND your email (at least until the NZ domain name commissioner helps you get your domain name back) .
If you’re on good terms with your web designer then just tell them you need to get control of your domain name and tell them you need the UDAI code.
If you’re not on good terms or there is a risk they won’t cooperate, a good approach might be to tell them you need to make changes to your emails (e.g. you want to move to GSuite or Office365). This diverts attention from the fact that you are probably dumping them as your web designer and you’re less likely to get a negative reaction.
I’ve only ever seen things go bad when the web designer has not been paid so settling your account is usually the best way to get their cooperation.
Here’s an example of an email you can send if you’re not sure whether the web designer will cooperate:
We need to make some changes to our email and we were told we should get a “UDAI code” so we can manage our domain name and email. Could you please send me the UDAI code for mydomain.co.nz.
Follow up with a phone call and make the same request (just read the email to them).
Very Important – The UDAI code will expire after a couple of days so check your email daily and transfer the domain name before the UDAI code expires.
Step 2 – Change of Registrant
Once you have control of the domain name, you still need to change the registrant to your own name. If you successfully got the UDAI code and transfered the domain name in the previous step then you now have control of your website and email so it does not matter how long the next part takes. There is no urgency.
Ask your domain registrar (or new web designer) for a “Change of Registrant” form. You need the ex-web designer to sign the form and return it to you so make this really easy for them so they have no excuses to not do it.
Print the form and fill out the details, with your new web designer’s help if you need it. Put the form in an envelope and post it to the ex-web designer. Include the following letter asking them to sign it and send it back to you. Also include an envelope with your address and a stamp on it so they have absolutely no excuses for not sending it back. Remember to change “mydomain.co.nz” to your domain name.
We realised that our domain name, mydomain.co.nz is registered to your name instead of ours. Could you please sign the enclosed change of ownership form so we can have it changed to our name.
Once again, call them and let them know the form is on the way and ask them to sign it.
If they send the form back scan it and send it to your domain registrar or new web designer and and you’re all sorted.
If you can’t get them to sign it and send it back then your next step is to contact the NZ domain name commissioner and use their dispute process. Tell them you have a domain name that was registered by an agent, that the agent used their own name as the registrant instead of yours, that the agent is not responding to your requests to change the ownership of the domain name and you need to dispute the ownership.
You can contact the NZDNC at https://www.dnc.org.nz/
As always, if you need some help from a friendly expert, call us for a chat.