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Prisoner's rights

Housing and debt

Debts and bills

If you can’t find the answers to your questions related to debts and bills in this section, see the chapter “Credit and debt” in the Community Law Manual

Do I have to keep paying my bills while I’m in prison?

Yes. If you owe money to anyone when you go into prison, you continue to owe the money. The person or company you owe money to can still expect you to follow any payment plan you have agreed to.

Court fines are different. See “Before prison: The criminal court process

For example, if you recently bought a car (or other goods like a TV, fridge, or furniture) and you’re paying it off weekly or monthly, you must continue paying while in prison.

If you plan to keep paying your debts in prison, you need to arrange for this to happen or authorise someone to organise it on your behalf. You can arrange with your bank to do telephone banking, so you can pay bills and transfer money over the phone. Your bank would need to be one of your dedicated telephone numbers.

It might be easier to give someone else control over your finances during your stay in prison. You can ask your bank what form you need to fill out to allow this.

What if I can’t pay?

If you can’t pay your bills, you need to contact the companies or people you owe money to and let them know your situation. You may be able to arrange to pay less each week or have your payments put on hold until you are out of prison.

It’s very important that you inform banks and credit card companies, as they charge high interest rates and high penalty charges for late or non-payment.

If you can’t make a new arrangement and don’t pay, the items you bought may be repossessed and you may be taken to court for the debt.

I bought stuff on hire purchase, what can I do?

Credit (Repossession) Act 1997, ss 6, 7

The goods still legally belong to the hire purchase or finance company until you’ve finished paying them off.

If you stop paying, the goods will be repossessed and sold and you could still owe money to the hire purchase company. Your family might have to deal with debt collectors or legal action to recover the debt.

If you can, arrange for your hire purchase payments to continue either by automatic payment (if you have enough money in the bank) or by someone else making the payments.

If you can’t make the payments, it’s important to contact the hire purchase company and tell them your circumstances and try to make an agreement about your hire purchase.

You can:

  • return the goods to the hire purchase company (but you still might owe money), or
  • sell the hire purchase goods to a friend or someone else and have them take over the debt (you must first get permission from the hire purchase company to do this). If they don’t meet the repayments and it is still in your name you are still responsible for any outstanding debt.

Give the hire purchase company your address and phone number in the prison and ask them to contact you if there are any problems.

My family says the debt collectors are coming around. What can I do?

Suggest that your family call Consumer Affairs on 0800 562 6787 for help. They need to make sure the debt collectors are acting legally. Your family could try to negotiate with them.

Next Section | Avoiding debts

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Housing and debt

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Lag Law: Prisoner's Rights

Lag Law answers heaps of common questions you might have if you’re going to prison, you’re in prison, or you’re getting out of prison. It talks about your rights in prison, and sets out the laws and rules that affect you when you’re put in prison . 1 free copy for people in prison and the whānau of someone in prison. If that’s you, email laglaw@wclc.org.nz for your free copy

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