Keeping your home when in prison

You don't automatically lose your home if you are sent to prison. There may be action you can take to keep your home.

Pay your rent when in prison

Make sure that your rent is paid while you're in prison. You can:

  • claim housing benefit to cover the period you are on remand or in prison
  • check if your partner or former partner can claim housing benefit
  • find a relative or friend who can pay the rent and look after your home while you're away

Act quickly – it is easier to get housing benefit paid if a claim is made as soon as possible, rather than claiming late and trying to get backdated payments.

Try to keep your home

If you give up a tenancy when you could have kept it, the council may decide you are intentionally homeless. This means you'll only be entitled to  limited help from the council if you're homeless when you're released.

Find out more about the help available for prisoners and ex-offenders.

You could also get advice if you need more information about keeping your home while in prison.

Use Shelter's directory to find an adviser near you

Rent arrears

You may find it difficult to pay all your rent when you are in prison. This can happen if the money you get from benefits or rent paid on your behalf is less than you should be paying.

If you don't pay all your rent, you risk being evicted for rent arrears.

To prevent arrears building up, it’s better to make small payments from your prison wages, savings or other sources of income rather than nothing at all.

If you are already in arrears, negotiate with your landlord about how  you can pay back the money you owe.

Your offer might include payments from your prison wages or an offer to pay the rest of the arrears from wages and benefits when you are released.

Give your landlord your contact details in prison. If letters or court papers are sent to your home address, you may not receive them in time.

Depending on your tenancy type, your landlord might decide to evict you. The court can take your payment record and offers of payment into account when deciding if you should be evicted.

The court can also decide to allow you to keep your home on condition that you pay the arrears off.

Private rented homes

It is easy for your landlord to evict you if you are a private rented tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy.

If your landlord takes you to court, you may lose your home and have to pay court costs.

If you are evicted by bailiffs, you could also have to pay their costs, the costs of changing the locks and the costs of removing your belongings.

You have much stronger tenancy rights and protection against eviction if you have a regulated tenancy. Get advice before giving up a regulated tenancy.

If you do decide to give up a tenancy, because you are likely to be in prison for some time or you can't find a way to pay the rent, you must end your tenancy properly. Otherwise you could still be liable for the rent.

Find out more about ending a fixed-term tenancy and ending a periodic (month to month) tenancy.

Most tenancies do not allow subletting of the whole of your home. Get advice from a housing expert before considering this option

Council or housing association homes

Try to keep a council or housing association tenancy. You could:

You may have to consider giving up your tenancy if you can't pay your rent or can't find someone to look after your home.

Councils and housing associations have a shortage of accommodation and may be willing to agree to re-house you when you are released if you give up your tenancy voluntarily, especially if you are able to move to a smaller property. You must get this agreement in writing.

Find a caretaker

If you are a council or housing association tenant, ask a friend or relative if they can act as a caretaker while you're in prison. This means they would live in and look after your home, manage your bills and send your mail to you.

It is important to make sure that a caretaking or housekeeping arrangement does not create a tenancy. This can happen if the person living in your home is paying you rent or paying the rent direct to the landlord.

Be certain your caretaker is someone you can trust. You could lose rights to your home and risk eviction if you sublet or rent out the whole of your council or housing association property.

Mortgage payments when in prison

Make sure your mortgage is being paid while you're in prison, for example:

Make a claim for SMI as soon as possible. This is easier than claiming late and trying to get backdated payments.

You may also be able to claim income-related benefits. Find out more from Gov.uk about benefits you may be eligible for.

Get advice if you are unable to pay your mortgage while you're in prison.

There may be ways to deal with your mortgage arrears and you could try to talk to your lender about your arrears.

Rehousing in a hostel or supported accommodation

Hostels may be willing to agree to re-house you when you are released if you give up your accommodation voluntarily.

It's worth asking, particularly if you have been living in a longer-stay hostel or supported accommodation. Make sure you get any agreement in writing.

You can be easily evicted from supported housing or a hostel. You might not be given written notice and might only be given a few days' warning that you must leave.


Last updated 16 Sep 2015 | © Shelter

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