How do I transfer a domain to a new registrar or change the named registrant (.co.uk domains)?


In order to set up any new website (like a Singlepage site), you need to be able to control the domain name(s) you are planning to use. If your domain(s) are definitely in your own control i.e. the domains are in a registrar account that you can log into, then you probably don't need to worry about changes of registrar or registrant.

But you may be using domain names that have been registered on your behalf some time ago by a third party such as a previous web designer or even a previous owner of your business. In order to use these existing domain names for a new Singlepage site, you need to be able to control them. In some cases (e.g. if you're the new owner of a business) you may be able to get control of the existing registrar account - contact the registrar to see if this is possible. But in other cases, you may need to get the domain(s) transferred into your own account with a registrar. At the same time, you should check that you (or your business) are listed as the registrant.

This article describes how registrar and registrant changes can be made for .co.uk domain names (other names e.g. .com are similar except they are not under Nominet's responsibility).

1. Before you start - when to make changes:

If you are already using the domain for an existing website or existing email services, you need to consider carefully when is the best time to make registrar and registrant changes. There is no need to make any changes to your domain until your Singlepage website is ready to go live. In fact, up to this point you may be using the domain name for your old website and email, and making registrar and registrant changes could prevent your old site working. But bear in mind that these registrar and registrant changes can take a few days to go through - or even longer if there is any difficulty contacting the existing registrant.

2. Before you start - email:

Make a note of any existing email addresses that you want to continue to use. If your email service is NOT going to be provided by Singlepage, you will also need to make a careful note of how your existing email is set up. You need to check how the email service will continue after you have discontinued your old website. You may, for example, be using some third party for email such as a hosted Exchange server, Gmail or Outlook.com. There is a specific DNS record for email called an "MX record", and you need to make a note of that before changing registrar, so that you can set it up the same way at your new registrar and keep your existing email services working.

3. Find who is listed as the current registrar and registrant:

Domain name registrars are usually large web hosting businesses that help register, control and renew on an ongoing basis domain names for their clients.

The registrant is basically the owner of the domain name.

If you have been using an existing domain name, you should check who the registrar and registrant of that domain are by doing a WHOIS search - see:

4. Decide what needs to change:

The objective is:

  • for the domain name to be in your own control in your own account with a registrar where you have login details to the control panel
  • for you (or your business) to be listed as the "registrant" i.e. the owner of the domain name

To achieve this, you may need to get the registrar and/or the registrant changed.

5. Changing registrar:

If the domain name is not already in your own account with a registrar, you can:

  • open an account with a registrar
  • then ask the third party (e.g. the old web designer) to transfer the name to your new registrar

To choose a registrar:

Open an account with your chosen registrar, notifying them that you want to transfer in your existing domain. Take care that you make the right selections on their website - you want to make a transfer that actually moves the domain so that they become the new registrar of the domain. Registrars will usually try to sell you lots of other services such as web hosting and email at the time you place your domain transfer order, but you should say "No" to these options and just get the domain name transferred.

You'll get some login details and a password when you first set up an account with a registrar. Make a note of these details for future use because you will need them when you're ready to put your new website live.

Your registrar should tell you how to complete the transfer. Basically, you should ask the previous registrar to transfer the domain name. Your new registrar may provide an email or form that you can use. If you are not the previous "registrant", the old registrant will have to approve the transfer.

6. Changing registrant:

Once the domain is in your own account with a registrar, you can change the registrant if required. Your contact details should have already been automatically provided by your registrar to Nominet (Nominet is the body in charge of .uk domain names). But the old registrant's name will still be stored in the Nominet database as the "registrant". To change the registrant's name, you will need to use the Nominet online service and pay a fee (about £10 + VAT). If you don't have login details for Nominet, you should contact them.

There are a couple of possible short-cuts to this part of the process:

  • if you use a Nominet "accredited" registrar, they may be able to change the registrant details for you when they transfer your domain (it's always worth checking with your registrar whether they can handle this change for you)
  • alternatively, the previous registrant may be happy to change the registrant's email address to your email address. Then you can ask Nominet to send out new online services details (these are sent to whatever email address Nominet have for the registrant, and so these could come direct to you). Once you can log in to Nominet's online services, you can change the registrant name and contact details.

If you have any problems, it is worth asking Nominet for advice: http://www.nominet.org.uk/

See also the Nominet Dispute Resolution Service: http://www.nominet.org.uk/disputes/resolving-domain-disputes

7. Ongoing management of your domain:

Registering your own domains makes the ownership absolutely clear and gives you complete control but it does mean that it will be your responsibility to renew the domain name on the relevant renewal dates. Your registrar will usually automatically renew the name unless you cancel it, and they usually try to charge the renewal fees to the same payment method (Direct Debit or credit card) you used when you originally registered the name. It's a good idea to make a note of the renewal dates and check that the name is renewed. Please note if you pay by credit card, whenever you are issued with a new credit card, with a new number, you will have to supply the new card details to your registrar - so paying by Direct Debit is generally better. You also need to update your contact details with your registrar if you change your email address. Beware of letters or emails in the future from other domain name registrars offering to renew your domain names for you – some of these are scams.

8. Problems with .co.uk domains?

Nominet are very helpful. Their website is full of information about domain name registration and they are also very happy to help you over the phone - see: