Wouldn’t you think that if you were paying someone to host and manage your website that you would be the owner of the domain? I’m always surprised at the number of clients that approach NEESH to take over site maintenance or upgrades for one reason or another only to find their current web designer will not release the site or domain name unless a ridiculous amount money is paid to transfer the domain name into the clients name.
Depending on the situation, it is often better to just start over rather than to be exploited. Work out the financials, how much is invested in stationery, advertising etc. Usually the site in contention isn’t worth saving as that is normally why the unfortunate client is wanting to leave the original designer. To save any problems, looking after your own domain name is a safe option and from what I’ve seen will cost you about 10% of what some company’s are charging for a simple payment annually or less frequently depending on the term chosen. Reputable hosting company’s have safe, user-friendly, online payment gateways to make these transactions as effortless as possible.