What happens to my home if I go to prison? Task
If you have offended and are sent to prison, it doesn’t mean you will have to lose your home. There are things you can do to keep your home, whether you own it or rent it.
If you have a home when you are sent to prison, it’s important to try and keep it. It can be difficult to find a new place to live when you get out of prison.
Make sure your rent or mortgage is paid or you risk either being kicked out (evicted), or your home being taken back by the bank (repossession).
Ask your partner or another family member if they can help make the payments for you.
Your landlord or lender must accept payments from your wife, husband or civil partner if they live in your home – even if they’re not named on the tenancy or mortgage agreement.
You should tell the prison that you are paying rent or a mortgage and need to do something about this while you’re in prison.
You or your partner may be able to get Universal Credit or support for the mortgage payments if you can’t meet your rent or mortgage payments whilst in prison.
You need to tell the housing benefit office that you want to claim housing benefit (for up to 13 weeks for a short sentence, or up to 52 weeks while on remand) and your address has changed to the prison address.
If you live with a partner
Your partner may be able to claim Universal Credit to help pay the rent.
If you have a mortgage, your partner may be able get support for the mortgage payments as part of a claim for other benefits.
You don’t have to be married and your partner doesn’t need to be named on the tenancy or mortgage agreement.
If you’re single
You can’t usually make a new claim for Universal Credit when you’re in prison.
If you were already claiming Universal Credit as a single person before you went to prison, you can usually continue to get the housing costs element for up to 6 months if you’re:
- On remand or
- Sentenced but likely to return home within 6 months
You may need to let your landlord know that you’re away in case they think you’ve left your home permanently.
It’s usually illegal for the landlord to change the locks, but they may have a defence if they believe you’re no longer living there.
Council or housing association homes
Leave furniture and other belongings in your home to show that you intend to return at the end of your sentence.
You could ask a friend or relative to look after your home while you’re away, by helping manage your bills and forwarding any post. Make sure to choose someone you trust. Your landlord could take steps to end your tenancy if occupiers or visitors to the property cause a nuisance.
It’s important to note – the person looking after your home shouldn’t pay you to live there – this is called a sub-tenancy
It’s a criminal offence to sublet your council or housing association home if you’re one of the following:
- Secure or flexible tenant or
- Assured tenant or assured short-hold tenant
You will lose your rights to your home and risk being kicked out (evicted).
Private rented homes
Decide if it’s realistic to try and keep your home.
Many private tenancies are short-term, but if you’re serving a short sentence or are on remand, you still need somewhere to live when you get out of prison.
Landlords or agents may be happy for you to stay, as long as the rent is paid. You don’t have to tell them that you’re in prison, but it can be useful to tell them so they don’t think you’ve moved out.
If you decide to give up your tenancy because you’ll be in prison for a long time or you can’t pay the rent, make sure you end it properly or you could still be liable for rent. You can end your tenancy properly by first discussing it with any other joint tenants. Then, if you all agree, you can let your landlord know. There may be a break clause in your tenancy agreement that allows you to end it early. It’s important to know, you don’t have an automatic right to end the tenancy.
If you’re threatened with eviction or repossession, it’s important to act quickly. You can contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345.
The eviction process starts with a notice from your landlord or a letter from your lender.
Get someone to check your post regularly and forward anything important to you while you’re in prison.
Your home is rented
You can be evicted quite easily if you’re an assured shorthold tenant or an introductory council tenant, but your landlord must still follow the correct process.
You have stronger protection from eviction if you’re one of the following:
- Assured tenant or
- Secure tenant or
- Regulated tenant
You own your home
Speak to your lender to deal with any money owed on your mortgage (arrears). It’s best to do this as soon as possible before the amount of money owed becomes unmanageable.
You may be able to avoid your home being taken back by the bank if you can clear any mortgage arrears over a reasonable period.