Mental Health Issues and the Private Rental Sector

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Problems with mental health have probably existed forever. The Bible has Jesus curing people with ‘evil spirits’, other people suffered from what we recognise as Epilepsy.

In later times, mental health led to people being incarcerated in Bedlam and, if violent, in padded cells and strait-jackets. We live in more enlightened times and now seek to treat mental health issues, to aid recovery and, as far as possible, to continue to live normal lives. 

The charity, Mind, have provided data that shows that 2 in 5 sufferers with mental health issues live in social housing. This is surprising. Seen as the most secure accommodation, generally cheaper than private rented housing, that this should have 40 per cent of its’ tenants suffering mental health issues, may seem a negative judgement on the sector. 

Certainly, the huge developments of the 1960’s, in their eagerness to demolish the basic, Victorian terraced properties (and to fit the gaps left by wartime actions) were dreary, characterless places, identical to each other, were not designed to lift the spirits.  More recent thinking and the advent of the housing association movement has meant that huge swathes of social housing are now a thing of the past, with more thought being given to design and individuality, so blame cannot really be placed on those for mental health problems.

It is more likely that the stresses of modern living are causing a growing number of people to feel they are unable to cope; the expectations of youth, that there would be work, that there would be homes available, are no longer available. Family breakdown results in not offering the support that an earlier generation could expect.

The good news for social tenants is that their landlords are usually involved in joint working and able to link into support that is available to help their tenants. Likewise, those that suffer from mental health issues who live in temporary accommodation can access assistance and, if treatment is successful, may find they are eligible for social housing, even if support is a necessary requirement.

What is missing is those with mental health who have managed to obtain private sector accommodation. The landlord is left very much on his own in coping with what could turn out to be a very bad tenant. 

A landlord was approached by the mother of someone with a ‘few’ problems. He was a kind man and had lengthy discussions with the mother, who said she provided him with support and would see him daily. As this seemed what the landlord would provide in the same position, he agreed to a tenancy of a brand new, self-contained flat in a small block. 

Within 3 weeks, the others in the block were threatening to leave; he had threatened someone with a knife and screamed for long periods when he was alone. The landlord contacted the mother; what a sad disappointment. She did visit him, occasionally, but he would not allow her in; she communicated with him through the window!  Fortunately, he was on the ground floor!

There is not the same support available as that enjoyed by the social sector landlord, but social services, adult care, will help. Help yourselves by keeping careful records of conversations; make sure other tenants know that you will take complaints seriously; make contact with social services at the first clue you get that there may be issues – in this case, before the tenancy is offered, after you have taken very full references, after mum has said he has a ‘few’ issues. 

Don’t try and handle this alone – social landlords don’t, why should you?

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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