Fried eggs in a pan

Housing

Having a criminal record shouldn’t be a barrier to renting or owning your own home, though there are some things to consider.

Yes, you are able to privately rent with a criminal record. In the private sector it is quite common for landlords and letting agencies to ask you to disclose details about your criminal record. Applying for housing is covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, so you are only obliged to disclose anything that is unspent at the point of application, if asked.

Yes, although there is no legal obligation on private landlords to check whether potential tenants have unspent criminal convictions, many insurance providers require policyholders to notify them if anyone living at the property has a criminal record.  Therefore, the landlord may need to know whether their tenant has an unspent conviction to ensure that their buildings insurance remains valid. They are within their right to ask you to provide a basic DBS check, currently £18.

To a certain degree landlords have the freedom to choose their tenants. All landlords have a legal obligation not to house anyone who has no lawful basis for being in the UK. Every landlord is able to refuse to rent their premises to someone as long as they have not made the decision on discriminatory grounds i.e. not due to age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy & maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

A landlord may refuse possible tenants due to their criminal record because they believe they may not be able to insure the property as some insurance companies may refuse cover if there is an unspent conviction or may increase the premium.  Most landlords are not aware of the Rehabilitation of Offenders act 1974(amended 2014) which allows tenants not to disclose any spent criminal record when applying for housing and insurance.  Please note that you do not have to declare any spent conviction(s) or conditional cautions when applying for housing.

If you are not asked, you do not have any legal obligation to disclose; however, if asked, you should only disclose unspent cautions or convictions.

Although most landlords do not carry out criminal record checks, it is generally beneficial to be open and honest with landlords and agents if you have unspent convictions as many do house people with criminal records.

If it comes to light that you gave false information, this may invalidate their insurance and may give the landlord grounds to go to court and have you evicted. They may seek to recover the money from you if they can prove that you withheld information.

If it is discovered that you did not declare any unspent convictions when you applied for the tenancy, this can give the landlord grounds to go to court and ask for you to be evicted(depending on the type of tenancy you have). However, if you were not asked at any point, then they cannot legally evict you for failure to disclose. If you find that this is happening, you can phone the Nacro helpline on 0300 123 1999, email  helpline@nacro.org.uk  or contact Shelter on 0808 800 4444 for further advice and support .

If someone approaches a local authority asking for assistance because they are homeless or threatened with homelessness and the local authority have reason to believe them, this triggers a housing application. The approach can be made in any form.

The Local Authority must consider whether the applicant meets the below conditions in assessing what duty, if any, is owed to housing the applicant:

Eligible, Homeless, Priority Need, Not Intentionally Homeless, Local Connection

The Conditions:

Eligible – Section 185 – 187 Housing Act 1996

The applicant must be eligible for housing assistance in the UK.  The applicant must have a right to reside in the UK and have recourse to Public Funds.

Homeless – Section 177 – 175 Housing Act 1996

A person is considered homeless if:

They have no accommodation in the UK or elsewhere which they have a legal right to occupy.

They have accommodation but they cannot secure entry to it or it is unreasonable for them to occupy it.

They have accommodation but it is a moveable structure and they have nowhere to legally put it.

 

Priority Need – Section 189 Housing Act 1996

The following will be treated as priority need:

Pregnant Women

Those with dependent children

Those made homeless as a result of an emergency Flood, Fire or other disaster.

Those aged 16 -17

Those 18 – 21 who are former relevant children

Those who are “Vulnerable” as a result of old age, mental illness or physical disability or other special reason.

Vulnerable

Vulnerable for this purpose means someone who is significantly more vulnerable than an “ordinary person when homeless.” They need to evidence that due to their vulnerability they would suffer an injury or detriment that the ordinary person when homeless would not.

Ex-Offenders may be vulnerable and therefore in priority need as a result of serving a custodial sentence or being institutionalised.

Intentionally Homeless – Section 191 Housing Act 1996

An applicant will be found to be intentionally homeless if they have done or failed to do anything, as a consequence of which, they cease to occupy the property. In addition, the property would have been available to them and reasonable for them to continue to occupy.

For example, an offender who loses their home as a result of going to Prison could be found intentionally homeless, however Local Authorities are not allowed to take a blanket approach and must look at each case individually.

Local Connection – Section 199 Housing Act 1996

You have lived in the area for 6 of the last 12 months or 3 of the last 5 years.

You have a family member who has lived in the area for more than 5 years. (Mum, Dad, Siblings, Adult Children)

You are employed in the area.

No Local Connection – you can apply anywhere.

Fleeing Violence – you can apply anywhere.

N.B Being in prison in a specific area does not give you a local connection to that area!

Due to the pressure on social housing (Councils & Housing Associations) demand is extremely high for these places therefore not everyone can be provided emergency accommodation.

The Local Authority must consider the above criteria to determine whether you are vulnerable and in priority need for housing.  In some cases, even after considering an ex offender as vulnerable and in priority need, the local authority may conclude that you made yourself intentionally homeless, if your homelessness is a direct result of your crime. You can contact shelter or Nacro for advice or seek legal advice to challenge this decision.  You may be eligible for legal aid and free legal advice.

It is possible to get a mortgage with an unspent criminal record, although it may be more difficult as your pool of potential lenders may be limited.  Most mortgage lenders do not have a specific policy and review each application on a case-by-case basis. They look at your broader financial situation and the type of conviction held on your record; for example, someone found guilty of financial fraud may have more difficulties securing a mortgage than someone found guilty of a motoring offence.

The key criteria is knowing whether your criminal record is spent or unspent (Nacro’s Criminal Record Support Service can advise) and knowing which lender can provide a mortgage and what information they will be looking for.

If asked during the application process, it is a legal requirement to declare all unspent convictions. If you fail to disclose, it can affect your chances of getting a mortgage and in some cases may lead to prosecution. From a legal perspective, spent convictions do not have to be disclosed to banks, building societies or mortgage brokers, irrespective of the question they ask, as applying for a mortgage is covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.   However, if your conviction is unspent then you will need to disclose (if asked).

If you are asked about convictions and you fail to disclose an unspent record, this could potentially lead to a further conviction or your mortgage agreement could be invalidated as well as any insurance policy connected to it.  This may lead to a long term devastating effect as you may not be able to secure a mortgage in the future.

Please note that lenders check CIFAS register.  If you have a spent criminal record for fraud or financial offences, your information may be on the register and they will take that into account as well.

Many high street banks and building societies including Halifax, Natwest, Nationwide and Barclays allow applicants to apply for an “in principle” mortgage, which often does not ask about criminal records, however, when you go on to complete the full application, you will normally find that the lender will ask you to provide details of any unspent convictions.  Each application is considered on a case-by-case basis. If you have an unspent criminal record, it would be a good idea to consult a mortgage broker before applying for a mortgage.   This is because every lender will have their own policies when considering applications, but your broker will have access to all of this information and will be able to research the best lenders for you, based on your personal circumstances, and reduce the likelihood of having your application refused. Mortgage advisers will also know which lenders are more likely to approve mortgages with criminal records. Lenders can refuse your application due to your criminal record if they feel you are too much of a risk. Which is why it is worth spending time preparing your application with the help of a mortgage adviser.

Other factors such as credit rating, evidence of stable employment, income and how much deposit you are able to offer.

Before you begin the application process there are a few things that you can do to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

  • Work out if your conviction is spent. Nacro’s Criminal Record Support Service can advise(0300 123 1999. helpline@nacro.org.uk )
  • Enlist the services of a specialist mortgage adviser. It is important to find a mortgage broker who not only has access to the whole market but who also has specific experience in securing mortgages for people with criminal records.  Having a full picture of your unspent criminal record will allow them to be able to negotiate on your behalf and find the best lenders for you.  Although you do not have to declare any unspent conviction if the mortgage adviser doesn’t ask, it doesn’t mean the lender  won’t, therefore it is best to be transparent to avoid your mortgage falling through at the last minute.
  • Get your documentation in order. Lenders will decline your mortgage application if they consider you as high risk, so anything you can do to show that you are reliable will help improve your chances.

 

Lenders will do assessments such as credit checks and affordability checks.  This involves your address history, employment, lending history, bankruptcy. Although criminal record is not disclosed on a credit file, your credit score may be impacted if you have spent time in prison as this may cause gaps in your address history and you may not be able to pay bills while in prison.  Furthermore, if you have a fraud or financial conviction, your information may be held under CIFAS register.

Have all your documentation well prepared with thorough records such as proof of address, bank statements, payslips/proof of earnings and accounts as required. Your mortgage adviser will tell you what you need to have ready.

Criminal recrod support service staff member on Nacro helpline

You can contact us on 0300 123 1999 helpline@nacro.org.uk

Monday – Thursday: 9am – 5pm
Friday: 1pm – 5pm

Our advisors can help you with any questions you may have.