Dealing With An Expired Domain Name


I saw this tweet from ICANN Ombudsman Chris LaHatte yesterday, and I want to discuss the topic of the best way to approach a domain investor who has purchased or acquired an expired domain name. Although I generally give advice to domain investors, the focus of this article is advising domain registrants on how I believe they should best deal with an expired domain name that was purchased by a domain investor.

There are many reasons why domain names expire. To name a few potential reasons for why a domain name may have expired:

  • Registrants want to discontinue paying for a domain name
  • Expired credit card prevents the domain name from being renewed
  • Invalid contact information prevents the registrant from receiving renewal emails
  • Former employee, hosting company, or other third party was previously managing renewals
  • Company bankruptcy or business closure
  • Combination of issues mentioned above (ie ignoring renewal emails and no credit card on file)

When a domain name isn’t renewed for whatever reason, it becomes available for others to purchase via different channels. Some domain registrars like Go Daddy auction domain names that were registered with them, while other registrars like Network Solutions and Enom have a deal with NameJet to auction expired domain names. If domain names aren’t bought at auction or backordered and awarded, they eventually completely expire and become available to anyone to hand register.

However a domain name becomes available to a third party to purchase, there is an occasional issue between the new owner and the former owner. Oftentimes, the former owner doesn’t know or understand how the domain name came to be registered by someone else. Sometimes this can lead to a contentious discussion between these two parties as the former owner believes he/the company still has rights to the domain name.

I want to share some practical tips to people who find themselves in this situation:

  • Research how the domain name was acquired by a third party. Assuming it went through the proper process, it’s certain that the current owner has rights to the domain name that you probably lost. It will most likely be up to you to work out something directly with the owner without outside intervention.
  • It’s good to know when the domain name was acquired, and if possible, what venue and price. Many venues report sale prices, and that information may help determine where to at least start with an offer. Don’t forget that most domain owners put considerable time into research, so that should be considered. In addition, domain names may have been re-sold since the auction and/or renewed. Just because you saw the name sold for $2,000 doesn’t mean the current owner paid that price or that he would sell for his cost.
  • Contact the new owner and be cordial. Do not make threats, especially if they are silly threats that would have no legal merit. If I am threatened with any type of litigation over a name I rightfully own, I will immediately turn the discussion over to my attorney, and as a result, if I am still willing to sell the domain name, it will cost much more money. Lawyers aren’t cheap, and I will build that into the cost of the name. I also don’t like working with bullies, so perhaps I won’t even sell the name.
  • Let the new owner know why the domain name is important to you or your business. Most domain investors are reasonable people and are willing to work out a favorable price in a situation like this, especially if you are respectful and cordial. I would not want to harm your business because your former wife was the registrant of your business domain name and didn’t renew it.
  • Don’t lie about the history of the domain name. It’s likely the owner will be able to verify things you say, such as whether it was ever developed or used, and possibly how/why it was dropped by the company. If you are caught in a lie, it’s less likely that the new owner will try to help you with a deal.
  • Make a respectable offer for the domain name based on its value. Realize that 99.9% of the time, the current domain owner is the lawful registrant, and if you have any chance of getting the domain name back, it is going to happen as a result of a deal with the domain owner. You may also want to consider the cost of buying a similar domain name and rebranding. It’s probably worth the money to get this one back if you have a vested interest in it.
  • Negotiate in good faith. Don’t work out a deal and then opt to file a UDRP. If that happens and you lose the UDRP, you’ll waste your filing fee, lawyer’s fee, and you’ll probably never get the domain name back.

If you have other tips, I invite you to share the,.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Some people like Morgan Linton says to give it back them for free because its good karma. Thats such Bullshit!!! I like the way you think Elliot.

  2. ML doesn’t give it back free. He said that if the domain was lost in a scenario like “your former wife was the registrant of your business domain name and didn’t renew it.” he will allow the previous owner to get it back for what he paid for it. weather or not you are going to give it back or sell it back a tactful approach on the side of the domainer is good business practice. After all there is nothing better than repeat business from a pleased customer.

    • Here is Morgans exact words with link below. He may be right or wrong but I doubt the majority of domainers just give it back with no profit. I seriously doubt it! I have done this in the past and the previous owner still thinks I’m a dick for registering it in the first place so I really don’t think you’re going to get any repeat and happy customers from these people. They already think I am an ass so your damn right I’m going to make money off them. If they contact me nicely I’ll be nice but when the first words out of their mouth is “You have my domain and I want it back” then its game on asshole!

      Lesson #4: Do the right thing if you buy an expired name that someone accidentally dropped

      “Every once and a while I get an email from a terrified website owner who accidentally let their domain drop. I always give it back to them for the price I paid and not a penny more. These things can happen and it’s easy to forget that most people on this planet don’t know anything about domains. They may have a website but they didn’t do any of the domain setup, their website developer, son, nephew, etc. did all of that. Just like you trust people in your life to keep track of other things for you, people do this with domains and they don’t think of them expiring. Profiting off of this is bad karma in my opinion and given that it only happens 1-2% of the time (at least for me) I think it’s a good move.”

  3. “Some domain registrars like Go Daddy auction domain names that were registered with them, while other registrars like Network Solutions and Enom have a deal with NameJet to auction expired domain names”.

    The frontloading, and policies of ICAAN with the Registrars really need to be reviewed, and corrected. I don’t think that is fair that Registrars can auction off expiring/expired domain names without paying for them first to ICAAN or somebody. The ownership should transfer to them first before they could auction it off. If ICAAN really has the interest of the public in mind, they will be clean in all these things, but I find a lot of their practices, and policies very troubling. When a domain name expires, or someone neglects to renew their domain for any reason, the Registrar should be mandated to pay for the renewal fees, wait 45 days before they can auction it off. Or they can just let it drop. That will be the way a clean organization would structure things. But any questionable organization will have someone auction off something that they do NOT technically own because they have not paid for it. The Registrar is auctioning off something that doesn’t belong to them; something they never paid a nickel for; something they DO NOT hold a title to. How is that fair?

    • Last I checked, the VeriSign COM/NET Registry auto-renews an expired .com and auto-bills the registrar for it. Then the registrar has up to 45 days to tell VeriSign to delete the expired name and reimburse them for the auto-renew if ever.

      Thus, registrars use that 45-day period to (try to) auction expired .com domain names before having them deleted for non-payment by the registrants.

    • The cost for a Registrar to purchase a domain that was not renewed by a Registrant should be the roughly $7 plus taxes to ICAAN plus the roughly $80 redeeming fee, for each and every domain they wish to buy before a drop, else they should let it drop, and hustle to Register it with everybody else. If not, it’s tantamount to insider trading. When a domain is renewed, they shouldn’t have 45 days to cancel it. If the Registrar pays for the renewal of the domain, it should be theirs for the entire year. If they are successful in selling it in an auction good for them, if not they own it, they should not be able to drop it after 2 days of purchasing it, just like anybody else. The 45 days is just to allow time for the prior owner to redeem the domain.

    • Put another way: the registrar paid VeriSign for that domain name’s auto-renew for the entire year. If the registrar doesn’t get renewal payment from the registrant/domain holder within that 45-day period, they can have VeriSign delete it and reimburse them for it by then.

      It so happens that the same 45-day period allows a registrar to do something to the expired domain name before (possibly) letting it go.

      I realize you may feel rather strongly about this,, and I get that. I’m just stating some “facts” unless the powers-that-be change that some time.

    • @DaveZ,

      Yes, you are stating some “facts”, but you are also ignoring some facts. At the time the Registrar apparently ‘buys’ the the expiring domain from the Registry, the cost to the original owner, the Registrant to redeem it, or keep it from being deleted is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than the renewal fee, there are costs in the range of $80 plus the renewal fee, which often deters the defaulting Registrant from renewing it; why should the Registrar pay anything less than that to “buy” it? Plus, if the Registrar only deposited a REFUNDABLE renewal fee, just until the Registrar verifies that he couldn’t auction it off, only to turn around and drop it within the 45 day period, that is not purchasing an asset, that is just putting up a refundable deposit. If in fact they bought prior to auctioning it off, the WHOIS record should reflect so. Domains are assets, I’m sure you agree; ICAAN should reflect that in the way domains are handled. One way of doing that is to stop these non titular auctions.

    • I’m not personally ignoring anything,, although it may seem that way to you. We probably just see things differently, although what I stated is what’s (at least) defined by the registrar, the Registry, and ICANN.

      If you want ICANN to “define” domain names as assets that registrars shouldn’t keep even after expiry, I’ll leave it to you or whoever to convince them that. Meanwhile, I won’t have to worry so much as long as I consistently renew and stay on top of *my* domain name/s.

    • Not a problem DaveZ, I do understand what you are saying. But, it’s hardly “buy” when the Registrar can drop the pigeon shit domains after 45 days, get their full money back, and probably keep the gems, the premiums, and some times auction some of these domains for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and millions of dollars in a year to the public who could have registered these names for registration fee, and ICAAN was instituted to deter such practices. Their role is to prevent such harm to the public. In this glaring case they failed. Besides, it makes mockery of domaining. Domainers end up as their toilet paper. I made it a matter of principle not to buy a single domain from these Registrars’ auctions.

  4. Good post. One to refer people to for sure.
    Might want to rework some SEO. Someone else bought “my” expired domain name, now what ? or What can I do to get my expired domain name back . .. .there ya go.

  5. You know the tv show storage wars…

    If you don’t pay for your unit, the storage facility will seize your property and sell it to the highest bidder.

    The highest bidder now legally owns that stuff. Previous owner can complain and make an even better case that that “stuff” is his “stuff” but it doesn’t give him ANY legal rights to it.

    If a TM domain is picked up by a domain investor, one could make the argument that the previous owner did not protect his TM therefore no longer has any rights to it.


    (and pay your storage unit bill)

    • “The highest bidder now legally owns that stuff. Previous owner can complain and make an even better case that that “stuff” is his “stuff” but it doesn’t give him ANY legal rights to it”…. Sequin


      The storage facility can take his stuff, but they can’t take his Name.

  6. Just funny stupid thing knowing that someone complaints about their domain names got expired and re-registered by someone. Firstly, whos fault it was? The innocent one who registered your name without knowing anything about it, or the registrar that sending a reminder almost everyday that your name will be expiring. Been reading some blogs and other says give it back to the previous owner just to become a good samaritan? Come on, just be true, business is a business and there are dickheads wherevet you go, I can only give a domain back to the owner in a cettain situation or condition, but chances are slim,
    Just be “kind and wise” than “dumb and stupid”.

  7. Here’s the problem with *this* system and its business: No regulation on what constitutes how the name became valued. For instance, my domain that I am seeking back as a small business (very small, I am a starving artist…) had only lapsed during a low point in my income which I truly couldn’t afford to renew it. It was food for wife and kid or domain.
    Now only a few months after some ‘domain trader’ scooped it up, they slapped a price tag on it of $2000. Initial contact reduced this to $650…
    I’m still trying to negotiate.
    Keep in mind all my physical stationery that had my phone, physical and web address on it and my business still legally registered with the state of Arizona in good standing.
    So they are saying: “This is a great domain name, very valuable…”
    Who made it that way: Me. Not them. And them preying on the less fortunate might see them surrender it for less because I am being “respectful” (a la kissing their deep pockets between the seams?)?
    What a backwards crock of crap?
    Would it not be just as respectful to not have a fellow human being trying to gouge me on my misfortunes?
    I like you article, but there is no oversight or regulations here to protect guys like me who are honestly trying to make a living.

  8. Update: Was able to get my domain back for $400 and a lot of mercy begging.
    Also, why should I have to re-register my domain for nearly a hundred bucks every year or lose it after (emphasis:) I – created it. As long as it stays in use, as the owner I should only be charged if I don’t use it (camping!). It seems to me the more questions I ask, the more this seems like a broken system where a largely unregulated piece of the world is being manipulated by money men and opportunists.
    @Alpha Louis, contact the owner and buy it. And as evidenced in this blog alone, pay whatever it takes to stay in ownership, because surely someone will use the first opening to stab you while you’re sleeping. How pathetic.

    • Sorry, but if you don’t pay for a renewal you don’t get to keep it. They give plenty of advanced notice to renew, and it’s under $20/year. I don’t see how it’s anyone else’s issue if you don’t pay or can’t afford to pay.

  9. Question: What is the best way to find the owner and contact information for a domain? I have a .net because the .com is registered in France…how can I find out the person in France that I need to contact to ask if I can purchase the .com domain?


  10. Hi guys

    Great post, coming in from a different angle but the same issue. I somehow stupidly let my domain name lapse of a secondary brand I had to support my main business in the wine industry.

    Yes, I have given myself several upper cuts to the chin, and here I am now looking to recover the name if possible at little or no cost.

    For the re it’s that part of our business wasn’t turning over a lot of revenue compared to our other wine business brand, but still nice to have it back.

    After extensive debating with my domain hosting company on why they didn’t send me an SMS or call or make any further efforts to contact me just prior to expiry, I received the standard response that they sent me a couple of reminder emails and it lapsed, so my desirable name was instantly snapped up by a person who had placed it on back order. Excellent.

    I accept that it’s my fault and someone else has now bought my domain.

    Whilst I can find who this is and make contact and hope to negotiate to get it back, the issue I have is that the website is active but sells shoes! Surely there is some course of action I can take to recover my domain name they purchased 12 months ago by someone with no intent to actually sell wine? Is relevance taken into consideration? It’s like having a website that sells bananas called and someone buys it after it lapses and starts selling lamps under that irelevant URL.

    How is that deemed a bona fide domain purchase with no genuine desire to sell bananas by the new owner. If it was a competitor I’d make the call and try and buy it back.

    Any advice appreciated. I am located in Sydney Australia.


  11. My domain expired that I believed was on auto-renew, but my credit card didn’t go through. Yes, my registrar sent me reminders before it expired, but I get so many emails from that account that I completely overlooked it. It went to auction, and a company in China bought it, I’m assuming for me to buy it back. I can’t read Chinese, but under contacts was an email address that I contacted. So far no reply. I had that domain since 2004, and it was a business selling books by the author. The domain name was the authors first and last name dot com. He has that website printed in his books. I’m really sorry it happened, and am doing my best to get it back. In the future, I’ll be sure not to let it expire, but too late now. Once I get with the owner, I’m hoping they will be reasonable.


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