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Can I sell my house if my husband or wife is in jail?

It’s perhaps not a question you want to ask, but one that you need to ask. We’re here with the facts to help you through what is likely to be a difficult and upsetting time. Because if your partner is in prison and for financial reasons you need to sell the family home, you need to know if being in prison affects a person’s rights. Let’s get started…

Does being in prison affect ownership of a property?

A prison sentence does not change the legal ownership of property. This means that if your husband or wife is serving a prison sentence, they are still entitled to their share of the property.

As a result, they will have to approve the sale and sign any necessary legal documents to enable the sale to progress. Your spouse’s rights do not change because they are in prison. If they do give their agreement and sign the legal paperwork, you will be able to sell the house even if they are in prison.

So, can inmates sign legal documents?

Yes, an inmate can sign legal documents. You will need to keep in mind whether or not the signing of the document needs to be witnessed by an independent witness. If you are trying to have legal documents signed by a spouse who is in prison, it would be recommended that you find out about the prison facility’s restrictions on such signing legal documents before arriving with a pile of papers.

Of course, if your partner is in jail, they must agree to signing the documents. If the other legal owner of the property does not agree to the sale, it can make the situation stressful for you.

What can I do if my partner is in prison and won’t agree to a sale, but I need to sell?

If your imprisoned spouse does not agree to the sale of your jointly owned house, you can make an application to a court for what is called ‘an order for sale’. When the order for sale has been granted by the court, you’ll be able to push through the sale of the jointly owned property. You should be aware that the legal process required to obtain a court order for a forced house sale like this does take time and can cost you a lot of money.

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That’s why, if at all possible you should try and settle it out of court. Not just because of the costs but because the outcome could well be out of your hands and it could be that neither of you achieve the outcome you’d like.

When you have joint ownership of a property and you do not have your spouse’s permission to sell, all is not lost because you do have some options. For example, you could offer to buy their share of the property (although you will need to obtain an independent valuation to ensure a fair price is achieved).

Something that can be easily overlooked is the importance to be certain that you are the only person named on the title deeds for the property. If you are, you can sell or rent out the property without having to have your spouse’s permission because it’s in your name only.

There is a big difference between being named on the house repayment documents and being named on the title deeds. If you’re named on house repayments it only means that you have a responsibility for making regular payments. It does not automatically mean that you’re a joint owner.

Do the proceeds from a house sale still go to my spouse if they are in prison?

Upon the completion of a sale, the proceeds from a house sale that is in joint names on the deeds will be paid to the joint owners. This can be done as one payment into a joint bank account, or the sum can be split into two payments. It will depend upon your specific circumstances whether or not your partner will be comfortable with the whole sum being paid into a joint bank account whilst they are in prison.

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In the event of a divorce, your imprisoned partner can have their share paid into a separate bank account because a bank account can still be opened by an individual, despite being in prison.

Things will of course be considerably more complicated if it’s believed that the property was purchased using proceeds of fraud or other illegal means.

What about mortgages and other regular payments?

If you have a mortgage, you will need to keep up payments to avoid the risk of repossession (see How many mortgage payments can be missed before repossession occurs in the UK? In the event of you struggling to be able to make repayments on your mortgage, contact your mortgage company as soon as possible and explain your situation to them so that a solution can be found.

If mortgage payments cannot be afforded, you may also be having trouble paying utility bills and other costs that are associated with your home (such as ground maintenance). In this situation, you can seek financial help. That’s because if your partner is in prison, you could be eligible for benefits to help you financially. If you are already claiming benefits, some of these might change to reflect your new circumstances.

When your partner is in prison, you will be treated as a single person or lone parent so you may be entitled to one of the following benefits for the first time:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit

If you are already claiming one of these benefits, you’ll need to notify the benefit office about a change in your circumstance.

A further saving can be made on council tax. If your partner is in prison and you are the only adult in the home, you could be eligible for the Single Person Discount which is a 25% reduction in council tax. Your local council will be able to advise you on this and point you in the right direction.

Looking to sell your house quickly?

If you have the permission of your imprisoned partner to sell the house, you may be looking for a quick sale from a cash buying company so that you can move onto the next chapter of your life.

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A cash buying company is a property buying business that will quickly buy your home at a discounted price. As a result, you’ll be able to sell your house fast without the hassle you’d have if you sold it to a private buyer that is in a chain. It is possible to sell a property in just 30 days if you use a cash buyer, which may be what you need. And because they’ll often be using their own money, no time is wasted sorting out mortgages and they won’t be in a chain so the sale should be straightforward. A word of caution though; it’s important to make sure that the valuation you get is a ‘no obligation’ valuation. This will mean you’re not forced to sell to that company just because they visited and valued it.

Also, for your own security, check that the company is a member of the National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB) and The Property Ombudsman. This will give you independent help if there’s a dispute, and it also means that they will have to abide by a code of conduct.

Naturally, how choose to sell your house is your decision, but you’ll want to pay attention to online feedback. There are review websites (such as allAgents) that collate feedback on estate agents, online agents and fast sale cash buyers, so have a look at the testimonials that have been left by people that have sold or are selling to see how they were treated by the company and if they received a good service.

Any questions?
We hope that this article has answered questions you have at a stressful time about selling a house when a partner is in prison. If you’d like to chat with us about a fast cash sale, our experts are available 24/7. Send an email or call us for more information.