Can I claim housing benefit while I am in prison?
If you have been sentenced and the total time you will serve is 13 weeks or less, you may be able to claim housing benefit during this period. However, if you have already spent 13 weeks or more on remand, you will not be entitled to any more housing benefit. To continue to claim your housing benefit, you must let your housing benefit office know that you are in prison.
If you will be serving more than 13 weeks in prison, including time on remand, you will not be able to claim housing benefit at all once you are sentenced. It is your responsibility to tell the housing benefit office about your change in circumstances. The prison should complete a custodial sentence form to confirm to the council that you have been sentenced.
If you were getting help with your council tax, tell the Tax Credit Office that you are in prison. As a prisoner, you may not have to pay council tax and your partner or family may have their council tax reduced.
If you were claiming Universal Credit before going to prison, you can continue to claim help towards housing costs as long as your total time in prison (including time spent on bail/remand) does not exceed six months.
What should I do about my bills while in prison?
If you are leaving your home empty, it is important to inform providers of any services which you will not need whilst in prison. This may include utilities (e.g. gas, water, electricity, TV/internet providers) and any direct debits (e.g. mobile phone).
If you want a family member or friend to liaise with service providers on your behalf, you will need to write and sign a letter to state that you are happy for them to do this.
I rent my home. Will I get evicted for going to prison?
It is important to try to do all that you can to keep your home, because it is really difficult to get housing upon release. Your landlord may try to evict you:
- if you have rent arrears
- if you or your family have used the property for illegal purposes or caused a nuisance
- if you have sublet the property without permission
- if it seems as though you have abandoned your home.
It is important that you receive any post that may relate to your tenancy. You can write a letter to your landlord to let them know that you are in prison and ask them to forward any post to you. Make sure you include your full name and prison number and ask them to quote this on any correspondence that they send to you in prison. If you decide not to tell your landlord, you will need to make sure that somebody is regularly collecting your post on your behalf.
I have received papers that say my landlord wants to evict me. What should I do?
Get advice immediately.
Depending on the type of tenancy you have, you may have only a few days to take action to stop the eviction.
See here for details about where you can get support.
How can I increase my chances of keeping my home while in prison?
You can be in prison for many years and still keep your home if you can demonstrate that you intend to return. You can do this by:
- Making sure your rent is being paid and seek advice immediately if you get into arrears
- Making sure your property is being looked after
- Keeping your belongings in your property
I will have nowhere to live on release. What should I do?
It can be difficult to find somewhere to live in time for your release as many housing providers have long waiting lists. There is advice and support available, but it is your responsibility to make enquiries and let the prison know about your housing needs as this may affect your eligibility for home detention curfew (a tag).
Here are some things you can do:
- Start making enquiries at least six months before your release date.
- Make an appointment with the prison’s resettlement or housing department. They will try to see you as soon as they can, but it may take some time.
- Contact Nacro’s Criminal Record Support Service on 0800 0181 259 for information on your housing options.
- Contact your local council’s housing department. From October 2018, the prison has a duty to refer you, but it’s a good idea to check whether they have done so. The council should arrange an interview (either face to face or by phone) before your release to discuss your housing needs and make a personalised plan.
If you are coming towards the end of your sentence and have nowhere to live when you leave prison, send a letter to your council and ask for help to prevent homelessness. You must send the letter 56 days before your release.
The timing of your letter is very important, so get in touch with Nacro’s Criminal Record Support Service on 0800 0181 259 well in advance of your release so we can help you send your letter on time.
Here is a sample letter to help you.