Help! My domain name expired and someone else registered it!

Posted on November 27, 2018


For anyone running a business online, it’s one of the most frightening things that can happen. Let’s imagine that you, for whatever reason, forget to renew your domain name and someone else registers it from under you.

What do you do? Is there anything you can do?

Well, yes there is, but let’s first look at the process that leads to this happening. We should add, for the purposes of this particular article, we’re going to focus on .uk domain, which are governed by Nominet. The rules for other TLDs (top level domains) are different.

Your domain renewal date

Should your domain renewal date come and go and you miss renewing your domain name, you’re given what is called a ‘grace period’ where the domain is still active, and your website can still be accessed. This lasts for 30 days and, in this time, you can still renew your domain name. Nobody else can register it – only you.

The 30-day period is often long enough to renew a domain you may have missed. However, if it’s still not renewed within this period, you have a further 60 days known as the ‘redemption period’. During this time, your website will be offline, but still nobody else can register your domain except you.

Once this period has ended, a whole 90 days from the missed renewal date, your domain can now be registered by anybody else.

This is where the problem arises.

A domain may not be renewed for a number of different reasons. Perhaps your website designer registered the domain for you and they’ve disappeared, and you can’t get hold of them. Perhaps you’ve scaled down your business and didn’t think you needed your website anymore. Perhaps you were away, ill or working on another business. Perhaps you lost your login details for the domain registrar, or lost access to your email.

There are so many reasons you may have missed renewing your domain, but the outcome could be catastrophic – your domain has been taken by someone else.

Here’s the solution

Luckily for you, Nominet has something called the Dispute Resolution Service for just such an occasion. Using this service, you can file a case with Nominet that will be reviewed by an independent adjudicator. If your claim to the domain is proved to be more substantial, and someone else having the domain is negatively impacting on your business, then you could be awarded the domain name.

There is a Decision Search tool on Nominet’s website where you can look at past cases, and see what sort of evidence is required and what decisions were made. This will help you get a better idea of whether or not your case is likely to be successful. When I spoke to Nominet last week, a representative stated that as many as 15% of cases raised were settled in favour of the complainant before any decision was required.

How does that work?

If your domain was registered by someone who has used it for nefarious means (such as a link farm or scam website) they will almost certainly have used fake details for the registrant. Often, the registrant’s name and address will be someone who has no idea the domain has been registered to them, and they’ll want nothing to do with the case and won’t want to be associated with the domain. In this instance, they’ll happily allow you to take back the domain.

The key tip in all of this is to read the notes on Nominet on what evidence is required from you to prove your claim for the domain. The more evidence you can submit, the better your chances of success.

Of course, if you never allow your domain to expire in the first place, none of this would ever be necessary, but we don’t live in a perfect world, do we?

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.
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