Prisoners Housing benefit means you should not lose your home
Our client had been serving a prison sentence when her Housing Association landlord issued possession proceedings against her for rent arrears of £2000 and failure to occupy. They also claimed that she had other accommodation with her son and ex-husband. We visited her in prison, obtained legal aid and prepared a defence and counterclaim. Her prisoners housing benefit had not been processed.
We defended the possession proceedings and made a counterclaim on the grounds of disrepair. Our client denied the claim that she was not staying in the property other than during periods of time when some works were being done and when she was in prison.
We also argued that it would not be reasonable to make a possession order on the basis of arrears. Until sent to prison she had always been on top of her rent payments and it was only when her son was asked to look after the property that the arrears built up.
Our client had also had problems with her housing benefit payments. We instructed an expert surveyor for the counterclaim who reported gaps in the skirting boards, infestation of rats, water staining and leaking. We prepared witness statements from the client and her son, as well as photographic evidence of the property.
There was a full day trial during which evidence from both sides were heard, with the claimant producing photographic evidence of the vacant property and bank statements which seemed to suggest most of our clients shopping was primarily focused around the area in which her ex-husband and son’s property was situated. Our client however avoided eviction and remains in the property.
Serving a prison sentence need not mean the loss of a home. Prisoners are entitled to put a caretaker in their home as long as the caretaker pays the rent. They are also entitled to priosners houisng benefit as Housing benefit must be paid to prisoners for up to 52 weeks if they are on remand and up to 13 weeks if sentenced.