When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Caring for personal items when in prison

Securing your home and holding on to your belongings while you are in prison can be difficult, especially if noone is going to be living in your home or you lose it while in custody. If noone else is going to be living in your home while you are away, you need to think about ways to keep it and your stuff safe.

Belongings in social tenancies

If your home is owned by the Housing Executive or a housing association, there are a few options available. You can ask your landlord to:

  • board up your home (you might have to contribute towards the costs of this);
  • allow a nominated person to live in your home.

Keep in mind that a nominated person will need to pay the rent in your place, as well as look after the property and that this person might not be entitled to housing benefit to help with paying rent.

If your landlord does not agree to a nominated person looking after your tenancy, you can still ask a trusted friend or a relative to keep an eye on your home from time to time, but if they move in, it will affect your housing benefit entitlement.

If you are not returning to your Housing Executive or housing association house, your landlord might store your belongings, but doesn’t have to do this. If your landlord agrees to store your stuff, it’ll only be for a short time so you’ll need to organise somewhere else for them to go fairly quickly.  Your landlord may charge you for this service.

Belongings in private tenancies

If you are able to keep your tenancy, try to have someone visit the property from time to time to make sure your belongings are safe. You should also ask this person to check your post in case you receive any notices or instructions from your landlord.  If you're going to ask someone to do this for you, remember to inform the landlord, as he/she will want to know if someone other than the tenant is visiting the property.

If you give up your tenancy when you go into prison, you will need to arrange storage of your belongings elsewhere. Commercial storage companies are usually expensive, so you might want to think about leaving your belongings with a family member or a friend while you are absent.

Belongings of owner-occupiers

Make sure your home is secure if you haven't arranged for someone else to live it in while you are in prison.  You should check that the locks are of a good standard and think about installing a burglar alarm.  Have someone you trust check the property regularly and check your insurance documents in case you need to notify your insurer that there's noone currently living in the property. 

If your home is repossessed while you’re in prison, you need to contact your lender to find out what they plan to do with your belongings. In these circumstances, try to get friends and family on the outside to look after and store your belongings.