What you can do if your landlord tries to evict you while you are in prison.
Reasons you can be evicted
If you have been sent to prison, you could be at risk of losing your home.
Your landlord may try to evict you if it appears that you have abandoned the property or no longer occupy it as your only or main home.
This can happen without giving you or the court any reasons. The landlord just has to give you a notice to quit of at least 28 days. It can be sent to your home, even after you have left.
You can also be evicted for rent arrears, whether they built up before or after you were sent to prison. Or you could lose your home because of your own or a family member’s criminal or antisocial behaviour.
Your right to stay in your home depends on your tenancy agreement.
Use Shelter’s tenancy checker to find out what type of tenancy you have
Eviction from a private tenancy
Most private tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy and can be evicted easily with 2 months’ notice.
If you have this tenancy type, you 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 immoral or illegal purposes such as selling drugs or allowing someone else to do so, or
- for causing nuisance or annoyance to neighbours
Eviction other private tenants
Different rules apply if you have another type of private tenancy.
If you are a regulated tenant (with a tenancy 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 are being evicted
If you have an assured tenancy, you have some protection from eviction. You usually can’t be evicted until your landlord has gone to court and the court has agreed to the eviction.
If you share your home with your landlord, you are probably a lodger and might only be entitled to reasonable notice.
Council and housing association 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
- subletting 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 you can be evicted you from a secure tenancy.
You can be evicted fairly easily if you have one of these council or housing association tenancies:
- an introductory council tenancy
- a starter tenancy with a housing association
- a demoted council tenancy
- a demoted housing association tenancy
How to avoid eviction
You may not be entitled to any help from the council if you are homeless after release if you don’t you try to do everything you can to:
- avoid being evicted
- make sure you have alternative accommodation when you are released
Remember that the landlord must follow the rules to evict you. If they do not, they could be illegally evicting you.
Keep in touch
You will need to decide whether you want to inform your landlord you are in prison. If you do, letters can be sent directly to you so you can be kept aware of any action that is taken to evict you.
Alternatively, ask a friend, family member or support worker to regularly collect your post and send it to you.
Get benefits to help with 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 able to claim or continue to receive housing benefit to help pay the rent for up to 13 weeks if you’ve been sentenced and up to 52 weeks if you’re on remand.
If you’re already receiving universal credit when you go to prison, Jobcentre Plus can continue to pay the housing costs element if you expect to return home within 6 months. You’ll need to inform Jobcentre Plus of your change in circumstances.
You can’t make a new claim for universal credit while you’re in prison.
Go to court
You’ll need someone to represent you if the case goes to court and you can’t attend the hearing because you’re in prison.
Your representative must be a legal adviser instructed by you – the court won’t allow a friend or family member to speak for you.
A telephone adviser may be able to complete a defence form and send written representations on your behalf.
If you qualify for legal aid you can:
Depending on your tenancy type, you may be able to keep your home if you can show:
- you intend to return to your home when you leave prison
- your possessions remain in the property
- you’re not subletting the property
- the rent is being paid
Still need help?
Get advice as soon as you can if you’re threatened with eviction whilst in prison.
Speak to a housing advice and resettlement worker in your prison.
Alternatively, you can: