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Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Homelessness tests and prisoners

The Housing Executive should investigate the circumstances of anyone who asks for help because they're homeless or likely to become homeless.  The Housing Executive will check to see if this person passes the 4 homelessness tests. 

You can read more detailed information about the four tests in the homelessness section of this site, but there are some specific issues that prisoners and ex-prisoners might be affected by. 

Homelessness test

If you're homeless when in prison, you can ask the Housing Executive to assess you at any point in the 3 months up to your release.  However, you can't pass the homelessness test until there are 28 days or fewer until your release date.  

Eligibility test

The Housing Executive may decide you fail the eligibility test if you've been involved in anti-social behaviour in the last 2 years.  This could happen if you've been convicted of certain offences.  The Housing Executive should look at each case individually and should only decide you've failed the test if it can show that you've been involved in the type of behaviour that would make you an undesirable tenant. The Housing Executive should look at what your offence is, where it was committed and where you were living when the offence was committed.  

Priority need test

If you've spent 4 years or longer in prison, you should automatically pass the Priority Need test when you're released.  If you've spent less than 4 years in prison, you'll have to show that you have other reasons to pass this test.  You may pass the test if you have a serious illness, a disability, mental health problems or if you're vulnerable in some way. 

Intentionality test

The Housing Executive doesn't have to help people who have made themselves homeless and could have prevented this happening.  You shouldn't be found intentionally homeless just because you've been in prison, but you could fail this test if you were evicted because of anti-social behaviour or because you broke your tenancy agreement in some way.  

Failing the tests

Speak to the prison housing adviser if you've failed any of these tests.  The adviser may be able to help you challenge this decision

Areas of choice for prisoners

When you apply for housing, you'll usually choose 2 areas that you'd be happy to be rehoused in.  Prisoners who are subject to PPANI may have some restrictions placed on the areas they can choose.  You might also need to choose your areas more carefully if you are under threat or there's a possible risk to your safety if you live in a specific area

Temporary housing for prisoners

 Prisoners who have a history of certain types of offences, like arson or sexual assaults, may find it difficult to secure temporary accommodation while they're waiting for a permanent offer.  Speak to your probation officer or the prison housing adviser if your offence history means you may not be able to use traditional temporary accommodation.