Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Keeping Your Rented Home While You are in Prison
Keeping your rented home during your prison sentence
They also state that this might not be an easy task, particularly for those serving longer sentences. If your sentence is short you stand a better chance of keeping your home, but swift action is imperative (in either case) and obtaining advice from a specialist adviser as quickly as possible is your best chance.
You can arrange to see a specialist adviser in most UK prisons, who will be able to help you with your housing needs when entering and leaving prison. If you are not seen by one of these advisers within four days of entering prison, you should ask a staff member to arrange a meeting at the earliest possible opportunity. It is usually better to contact your landlord as soon as possible, explaining what has happened and asking them to write to you at the prison. Not disclosing your address whilst in prison may be counter productive at this stage, and could lead to you missing out on important correspondence. If you were on any Housing or Council Tax Benefit before being sent to prison, you will also need to inform your local council about your change of circumstances. Failure to tell them might result in you having to pay back benefits later on.
Your landlord must have legal grounds to evict you from your home and usually these grounds take the form of "failure to pay rent" whilst in prison. There are other grounds as well, but since the rent issue is the most common, it should be addressed first. If you are an unconvicted prisoner, you can get Housing Benefit for up to 52 weeks, as long as you are not expected to be away from home for longer than that time and that you are expecting to return to your home at the end of it. For convicted prisoners, you can claim for up to 13 weeks as long as you are not going to be in prison for longer than that time and you will return home at the end of the 13 week period. If your family are going to be living in your home, they can make a claim for Housing Benefit in your place.
Though it is often forbidden by tenancy agreements, you should check to see if you are permitted to sublet your home. If it is forbidden, then you should not do this. Alternatively, you could ask a trusted friend or family member to act as your housekeeper and pay the rent in your place; they will not be able to claim Housing Benefit, and they should be someone that you can rely on to pay on time and follow all the other rules of your tenancy. If you are a council tenant, you should ask the council if they would consider writing off any accrued rent arrears. They may do this if the option is likely to prove cheaper than the costs of eviction.
In most cases, your landlord will have to take you to court before they can evict you. For this reason, it is important to reply to any letters and fill out any paperwork forwarded to you before any deadlines given. Leaving your belongings in your home might help to show that you intend to return when you leave prison, but this might be a risky move. When you return to your home after prison, you may find it difficult to obtain home insurance with a criminal record. With HomeProtect you can use our quick and easy online service to get a quote for home insurance with convictions and you can be certain that you will be treated with fairness and respect.