Keeping your home when in prison

Take action to keep your home so you have somewhere to live on release.

Try to keep your home

It's important to try and keep your home so you have somewhere to live on release.

If you give up a tenancy or get evicted it can be difficult to find somewhere else.

If you ask for homelessness help from the council on release, they might decide you're:

The council doesn't have to house everyone who is homeless and might just offer advice.

Get advice in prison

Most prisons have a resettlement service called Through the Gate. The service is delivered by charities including Shelter, St Giles Trust and Catch22.

A resettlement worker draws up a resettlement plan when you enter prison and it should be reviewed before you leave. 

Tell your resettlement worker about the type of housing you live in and if you'll have problems with rent, mortgage payments or eviction whilst in prison.  

Pay your rent or mortgage

Make sure your rent or mortgage is paid or you risk eviction or repossession

Ask your partner or another family member to meet the payments if you can't. 

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 agreement. 

Claim benefits to help with housing costs

You may be able to claim certain benefits if you can't meet your rent or mortgage payments whilst in prison.   

If you have a partner

Your partner may be able to claim universal credit housing costs or housing benefit for a rented family home.

If you have a mortgage, your partner may be able get support for mortgage interest (SMI) payments as part of a claim for other benefits. 

You don't have to be married and they don't have to be named on the tenancy or mortgage agreement.

If you're single 

If you live in a universal credit area, you can't usually make a new claim for UC or housing benefit when you're in prison.

If you were already claiming UC 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
  • sentenced but likely to return home within 6 months 

Find out about the housing benefit rules for prisoners if UC isn't available in your area.

If your home is left empty

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 an illegal eviction if a landlord changes the locks but they may have a defence to if they believe you're no longer living there.  

Council or housing association homes

Leave furniture and possessions in your property to show you intend to return home at the end of your sentence.  

You could ask a friend or relative to act as a caretaker while you're away. They could look after your home, manage your bills and forward any post.

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 that any caretaking arrangement does not create a subtenancy. This can happen if someone living in your home pays rent to you or the landlord.

It's a criminal offence to sublet your council or housing association home if you're a:

You lose rights to your home and risk eviction.

Private rented homes

Decide if it's realistic to try and keep your home. 

Many private tenancies are short-term anyway but if you're serving a short sentence or on remand, you still need somewhere to live when you get out.

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. 

If you decide to give up your tenancy because you'll be in prison for a long time or can't pay the rent, make sure you end it properly or you could still be liable for rent. 

Find out how to end a:

If you're facing eviction or repossession

Your landlord must send you a notice or your lender must write to you.

Get someone to check your post regularly and forward anything important while you're in prison.

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 a:

You may be able to avoid repossession if you can clear any mortgage arrears over a reasonable period.

Get legal advice

Act quickly if you're threatened with eviction or repossession: 

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345

A legal aid adviser can:

  • check if you have a defence to the eviction
  • write to your landlord, lender or court
  • refer you to a solicitor  

Friends or relatives can't instruct a solicitor on your behalf or speak for you in court.

Still need help?

Ask if you can speak to a resettlement worker in your prison.

Alternatively, you can:

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone


Last updated 12 Sep 2018 | © Shelter

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