Housing issues with a criminal record

Understanding the problems faced by people with convictions
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Housing issues with a criminal record

When you have unspent criminal convictions, it can be hard to find housing and things like criminal convictions insurance when you have a place to live. There are a number of reasons for this but, unfortunately, many of them may not be considered fair or reasonable. Though many insurers will refuse to even offer you a quote once you reveal your unspent convictions, homeprotect is different.

Local authority housing policies

When it comes to local authority or council housing, you might find that there are policies preventing you from joining a waiting list when you have unspent criminal convictions, or at least categorising you as low priority for scarce housing stock. This is despite the existence of numerous studies which show that stable accommodation reduces the risk of re-offending.

The private sector

In the private sector it is quite common for landlords and letting agencies to ask you to disclose details about your criminal record, and they may refuse to rent to you based on this information. Though there are landlords dedicated to offering accommodation specifically for former offenders, they are far from being in the majority. Often when you disclose unspent convictions to a potential landlord it will result in you being refused a rental opportunity, even in cases where the convictions are neither relevant nor pertinent to the situation.

Keeping your rented home while you're in prison

Citizens Advice advises that holding onto your home should be a top priority for those entering the prison system, so that you have somewhere to live when your sentence is served.

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 as quickly as possible is your best option.

Ask for specialist advisers in prison

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 counterproductive 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.

Legal grounds for eviction

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.

Can you sublet?

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.

Police forces

There have been several instances where concerns have been raised about how police forces might be arranging to share criminal record data with local authorities and housing associations. Where this is taking place it might be said that the rights afforded to ex-offenders under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 are being circumvented in contravention of data protection legislation. If you are concerned about how your record data might be being handled, you may wish to seek further information from Unlock.

Opening a bank account when you have a conviction

If you have been convicted of fraud, you may have difficulty in opening a bank account and this, in turn, can cause you problems when it comes to the process of paying resnt, especially to a private landlord.

If you have been declined a financial product, such as a bank account, CIFAS (Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System) may be able to help you find out why. Another option if you'e in this situation is to avoid mainstream banks and instead open an account with a specialist provider of managed accounts for people who have been in financial difficulty. Noe that managed bank accounts charge you fees.

Disclosure

When applying for insurance the provider may ask questions regarding unspent criminal convictions. If this is the case you must answer the questions honestly and to the best of your knowledge. This applies to anyone living at your property.

Getting home insurance

If you were not asked about your convictions in the course of completing an application however, and you have subsequently had your insurance refused or cancelled as a result of them coming to light, then you may have grounds for appeal. You are not required to disclose any spent convictions under the ROA 1974 to an insurer, even if asked about them directly. With HomeProtect, you can obtain a competitive online quote for criminal convictions insurance even if you have unspent convictions.


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It's very simple really. My son-in-law had a criminal record and only HomeProtect would offer house insurance at a a reasonable price. Every time I phone to discuss renewals, they are always helpful. - Trustpilot Monday, 31 October 2016