Eviction if you are sent to prison

Your landlord may try to evict you while you are in prison. You can take action to challenge this.

Reasons for eviction 

Your landlord may try to evict you if you've been sent to prison and it appears that you have abandoned your home or that you don't live there anymore. 

Tenants can also be evicted for rent arrears or for their own or a family member's criminal or antisocial behaviour.

Try to do everything you can to avoid being evicted or to make sure you have alternative accommodation for when you are released. If you don't, you may not be entitled to any help from the council if you're homeless after release.

Get advice immediately if you have been threatened with eviction. Ask an adviser in your prison for help or use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

Keep in touch

After you've been sent to prison, it's important that you are able to find out about any action or decisions affecting your tenancy, such as letters from your landlord, the court or bailiffs.

Depending on what type of tenancy you have, you might not get very much notice of court action if the landlord decides to evict you..

You need to decide if and when you tell your landlord you're in prison. If your landlord knows where you are, letters could be sent directly to you in prison and you could be aware of any action your landlord takes to try to evict you.

You could ask someone such as a family member, friend or support worker to collect your mail and send it to you. Make sure that this is done regularly.

Eviction of assured shorthold tenants

Most private tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy and can be evicted easily with two months' notice.

Assured shorthold tenants can also be evicted:

  • for rent arrears
  • if you have abandoned the property or no longer occupy it as your sole or main home
  • for using the property for illegal or immoral purposes (this could include dealing drugs from the property) or allowing someone else to do so, or
  • for causing nuisance or annoyance to neighbours

Eviction of other private tenants

The rules are different if you have a different tenacy type:

  • If you have an assured tenancy, you have some protection from eviction and cannot usually be evicted until your landlord has gone to court and the court has agreed to the eviction
  • If you are a regulated tenant (tenancies that started before 15th January 1989), you may have more rights than other private tenants. Get specialist legal advice if you have a regulated tenancy and you are being evicted

If you share your home with your landlord, you are probably an excluded occupier and might only be entitled to reasonable notice.

Use Shelter's tenancy checker to find out what type of tenancy you have and the procedures and timescales the landlord has to follow to evict you.

Make sure you can receive letters from your landlord. Court action to evict you can be started quickly. You will need to know about it so you can take action if needed.

Council and housing association secure tenants

Most council tenants have a secure tenancy. 

If you are sent to prison for any length of time, you might risk being evicted from a secure tenancy for:

  • rent arrears – these may already exist or could build up when you are in prison
  • sub-letting the whole property without permission
  • no longer living in the property

Your landlord must send you the correct notice and get a court order before it can evict you from a secure tenancy.

Other types of council and housing association tenancy

You can be evicted fairly easily if you have:

Get advice immediately if the council or housing association tells you it is going to apply for a court order to evict you. You may only have a few days to take action if you want to stop the eviction and will need help from an adviser to challenge the decision.

Contact an adviser in your prison or call Shelter's advice helpline

Eviction if you abandon your home

As a council, housing association or private tenant, you have some legal protection from eviction, as long as you occupy the property as your only or main home.

But if the landlord can show that you no longer occupy the property as your only or main home, they can evict you without giving you or the court any reasons. To do this, the landlord must give you a notice to quit of at least 28 days. The notice can be sent to your home, even if you have left.

At the end of the notice period, the landlord can take possession of your home without going to court or can start court proceedings to evict anyone else who may be living there.

Get advice immediately if your landlord tells you they're taking back your home because you don't live there anymore. Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre in your local area.

Illegal eviction

The landlord must follow the rules to evict you. If they do not, they could be illegally evicting you.

Get advice to check that your landlord has followed the rules for eviction. Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre in your local area.

Argue your case in court

Get advice if you're going to court over eviction. Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre in your local area.

You may be able to argue in court court to keep your home if you can show that:

  • you intend to return to your home within a reasonable period, and
  • your possessions remain in the property
  • the rent is being paid

If you are allowed home on temporary release, this can be used as evidence that you continue to live in your home and that you intend to keep living there.

Prisoners with a sentence of between three months and four years may be allowed to spend some of their sentence on Home Detention Curfew (HDC). If you qualify for HDC, you may be able to argue that you:

  • intend to use your home as the address needed for the HDC
  • will be living in the property while on HDC
  • intend to return there when your sentence comes to an end

Get help to pay your rent

You must make sure that the rent is paid while you're in prison. If you don't pay your rent you could be evicted for rent arrears.

You may be eligible for housing benefit to help pay the rent.

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