Practical information & advice

 

Information

Here you’ll find links to various parts of this site where we have information and useful resources relating to housing.

I need advice on finding housing – what can you suggest?

There is a shortage of housing stock right across the country. This means that applicants for social housing need to meet stricter criteria which in turn, has pushed up the rents for private rentals. You should make contact as soon as you can with specialist housing providers who should be able to assist you irrespective of your criminal record. Useful links include:

Will my criminal record cause me a problem when getting a mortgage?

If you’re asked to disclose any unspent convictions then legally, you are required to do so. Every bank/building society will have their own lending criteria and some may refuse a mortgage to anybody with a criminal record. Useful links include:

I’m in prison – what advice do I need with housing?

Housing advisers in prison can give you help in either making sure you keep your existing home or planning somewhere for you to live when you’re released. Useful links include:

Who can help me with housing?

We’re not a housing provider or a specialist housing advice service. There are specific services and organisations that we would suggest you make use of. Useful links include:

I want to become a landlord – what issues do I need to be aware of?

You’ll need to make sure you have appropriate insurance and you should be aware that you’ll need to disclose any unspent convictions. Useful links include:

 

Advice

Here you’ll find some of the common advice we give on housing. This is based on what we’ve learnt as a charity, as well as the real-life experiences of people with convictions. More specific advice is available in the information sections above.

  • Make sure you contact and use specialist housing organisations. They should be able to help you regardless of your criminal record.

 

Frequently asked questions

Here you’ll find some specific questions that we regularly get about housing and the answers we generally provide. More detailed FAQ’s may be included in the information pages above.

Many areas have schemes to help people on low incomes to pay deposits. They can be called Rent Deposit, Rent Guarantee or Bond Guarantee schemes. They can offer a grant or a loan to pay the deposit, or a guarantee (often for a set period such as a year) to pay the landlord if you don’t pay the rent or you owe money for any damage.

The schemes may be run either by the Council or a local charitable organisation. They all have different rules, and they may or may not be helpful for people with an offending history. Some Councils also have money in their Homelessness Prevention Fund to help with deposits, and some Probation services have money set aside for this at the moment.

The best places to find out if there is a scheme in your area are the Crisis website or your local Council and Probation service.

Rent deposit schemes usually don’t offer money for these. Other places to try are Credit Unions (you save with them, then can borrow money at low interest rates), or local Councils. Because homelessness prevention is part of their role, local Councils sometimes use their money to help people to get a private house or flat, if they would otherwise be at risk of being homeless.
No, unless you have a conviction for a financial crime. Private landlords often check credit checking agencies, and this should not reveal information about convictions for other crimes.

Firstly, check that you have a letter from the Council giving you a reason for deciding that you have made yourself intentionally homeless. You can ask the Council to review its decision, as long as you do so (in writing) within 21 days.

To be seen as intentionally homeless, you must have deliberately done something or failed to do something, which led to you losing your home, and been able to stay where you were living. If you think the Council’s decision was wrong because none of these points apply to you, its important to get advice before you ask for an appeal.

Secondly, ask them if you are going to be offered any immediate (emergency) accommodation for upto 28 days, if you were told when you asked for help that you will be considered as intentionally homeless. Even if you are classed as intentionally homeless, you are entitled to this emergency accommodation, and then to receive advice aimed at helping you to find somewhere to stay after that.

No, you don’t normally have to tell them. You only have to tell them (about unspent convictions) when you are applying for somewhere to live with them. The only exception to this is where your initial agreement with them makes it clear that you must tell them about any future convictions you might receive.

If the Council or Housing Association finds out about the criminal conviction, you could be evicted if you have just got a conviction for:

  • anti-social behaviour
  • drug dealing or growing drugs on the premises
  • running a brothel or another illegal activity in the house, or allowing someone else to do this
  • being violent towards your partner or to a housing or other official

Eviction should be the last resort – the Council or Housing Association should try to get you to agree that you don’t commit the same crime again. This could be by getting you to agree to an Acceptable Behaviour Agreement, or by getting an Anti-Social Behaviour Order, or by downgrading the tenancy so that you can be evicted more easily if you do not follow the rules.

No, you don’t normally have to tell them. You only have to tell them (about unspent convictions) when you are asking them for somewhere to live in property they own or manage. The only exception to this is where your initial agreement with them makes it clear that you must tell them about any future convictions you might receive.

Depending on what is in your tenancy agreement, if the landlord finds out about the criminal conviction, you could be evicted if you have just got a conviction for:

  • anti-social behaviour
  • drug dealing or growing drugs on the premises
  • running a brothel or another illegal activity in the house, or allowing someone else to do this
Not all landlords ask, but some use Councils’ systems for vetting people applying for tenancies, and those will all ask about convictions. Some landlords may ask about convictions so that they can be sure that their insurance is valid.

If landlords or agents do ask about convictions, some are happy to let to people with an offending history, but others will not consider anyone with offences. It will often depend on the offence, so motoring or petty shoplifting crimes might not affect your chances of being housed, but violence, damage and drug dealing are much more likely to.

You do not need to disclose that you have a conviction to any of these if you are already a tenant or a home owner, unless you have insurance through them.

If you are applying for insurance, you only have to disclose convictions if you are asked, or if there is a clause in the contract saying that you must do so.

For Councils and Housing Associations, you must disclose any unspent convictions when you apply for a home, if you are asked. They can go to court and ask for you to be evicted if they discover that you gave false information when you applied for a tenancy with them.

For private landlords, it is usually a good idea to be open with landlords or agents when you apply for a home with them, because they too can go to court and ask for you to be evicted if they discover that you gave false information at the outset. Another problem is that if you do have unspent criminal convictions, the landlord’s insurance may not be valid if this is not disclosed. The landlord may try to recover the money from you if a claim they made has been refused because of your conviction, if they can prove that you lied to them.

For mortgage lenders (banks, Building Societies etc), you must disclose information about convictions if they ask you. If they ask, you are bound by a ‘legal declaration of truth’, and must to answer all questions accurately and truthfully (although you don’t have to disclose spent convictions). If you were found to be lying by not disclosing an unspent conviction when you got a mortgage from them, it could lead to a further conviction. Also, if the mortgage lender finds out about it later, this could invalidate the mortgage agreement, and possibly any insurance as well.

If you want to become a provider of social housing to the local authority as a private landlord, you should bear in mind the ‘suitability’ test that applies. This comes from the Housing Act 1996. The relevant section is copied below. This should be interpreted as referring only to unspent convictions.

Housing Act 1996 – Section 210 – “Suitability of accommodation”

For the purposes of this Part, accommodation secured from a private landlord as defined at section 217(1) shall not be regarded as suitable where one or more of the following apply – ..

(e) the local housing authority are of the view the landlord is not a fit and proper person to act in the capacity of landlord, having considered if the person has – ..

(i) committed any offence involving fraud or other dishonesty, or violence or illegal drugs, or any offence listed in Schedule 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (offences attracting notification requirements);

You will be offered emergency accommodation if you need it, and help to get either Council or Housing Association housing, or a private rented place. You can be offered accommodation outside your local area. The Council must look at what is available in your local area and whether you or the family you are being housed with would find it hard to

  • continue to work
  • go to school
  • look after family or get support from family
  • get to medical appointments or facilities

The Council should not expect you to move if its likely that there would be a major negative effect on your life and that of your immediate family. However, the reality is that quite a lot of families are now being asked to move away from areas where temporary or longer term accommodation is very hard to get hold of. It’s possible to challenge a decision to move you, but get advice before you decide to do this.

 

Here you’ll find links to useful organisations and websites related to housing that we refer to in our information and advice. Contact details for the organisations listed below can be found here.

 

Read personal stories

The personal stories below have been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.

 

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences of this on our online forum.

Key sections include:

 

Help us with our policy work on this

Read more about the policy work we’re doing on encouraging fair treatment by housing providers.