Imprisonment and Occupation Contracts in Wales

Navigating the complexities of a contract holder's imprisonment can be particularly challenging for landlords managing occupation contracts in Wales. It's essential to understand the rights of the contract holder and the legal procedures for seeking possession under these unique circumstances.

Contract Holder Rights During Imprisonment

In Wales, under occupation contracts, the dwelling remains their main home. Therefore, they retain certain rights concerning their occupation contract. The tenancy continues if the contract holder intends to return to the property upon release. Indicators of this intention might include:

  • Continued Rent Payment: contract holders who continue paying rent demonstrate a commitment to maintaining occupancy rights.
  • Notifying the Landlord: Communication from contract holders about their imprisonment and intention to return, including the expected return date, is crucial.
  • Property Maintenance: Arrangements made by the contract holder for the care of the property, like assigning a friend, family member, or lodger, can reinforce their intention to return (subject to contract terms on subletting or guests).

A landlord should assume the contract holder intends to return unless there is clear evidence to the contrary, such as the property being emptied and keys returned, in which case the abandonment procedure may be considered.

Seeking Possession Under Occupation Contracts

Landlords need to consider avenues for possession, primarily the no reason notice or notices based on rent arrears or breach of contract, which are common grounds that might arise in these situations.

Section 173 No-reason Notice

A landlord can serve a Section 173 notice, which must be at least six months long. No reason is required when serving this notice. However, it cannot be served during a fixed term and can only be given during a periodic contract.

Rent Arrears

If the contract holder fails to pay rent during imprisonment, landlords can initiate possession proceedings for rent arrears. This process involves serving a specific notice (RHW20) and fulfilling the conditions for serious rent arrears outlined in the Act (e.g., at least two months' rent unpaid for monthly rental periods).

Breach of Contract

Another potential ground for possession is the contract holder's breach of the occupation contract. This could include Anti-social behaviour, unauthorised subletting, or other violations of contract terms. The landlord must serve a notice (RHW23) outlining the details of the breach. They can then initiate a possession claim after one month from the notice date (or immediately in cases of anti-social behaviour).

Serving Notices

When serving any notice, landlords must comply with the prescribed methods outlined in the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, including personal delivery, leaving it at the property, posting, or electronic delivery if agreed upon.

Compliance with Legal Requirements

Landlords must also ensure compliance with all statutory obligations, including providing written statements of the contract, ensuring property safety standards (e.g., smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, EPC), and adhering to deposit protection rules. Failure to meet these requirements can restrict the landlord's ability to serve a no-reason notice.


For landlords in Wales dealing with a contract holder's imprisonment under an occupation contract, adhering to the specific regulations and procedures outlined in the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 is crucial. Balancing the contract holder's rights with the need to manage the property effectively requires a thorough understanding of these legal frameworks. Always consider professional advice to navigate this complex area successfully.

View Related Handbook Page

Landlord Notice (Rent Arrears and Other Breach)

Navigate the complex Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 with our comprehensive guide, covering RHW20, RHW23, RHW32, RHW33 notices and more.

Landlord No Reason (Section 173) Notice

Under the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, how possession is sought changes for occupation contracts. There is a "no reason" section 173 notice (comparable to section 21) upon giving six months' notice