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OTHER FEATURES

Mental Health in the Rental Sector – Are We Doing Enough?

One might immediately answer 'no' to this question, but does the HMO property industry possess adequate understanding of this delicate subject to address it effectively?

First, a bit of background on my experiences and why mental health is so close to my heart.

Twenty years ago, my youngest brother began displaying erratic and irrational behavior. Days of complete silence were followed by outbursts of anger, confusion, and bewildering comments, deeply upsetting our entire family. While he had always been somewhat distinct, favoring computer games and shying away from social interaction, we attributed this to his upbringing. However, we were mistaken.

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My parents struggled to cope, my siblings were emotionally shattered, and as the eldest, I felt my only role was to maintain cohesion among us.

Sadly, matters came to a head on Christmas Eve, leaving us no choice but to have my brother sectioned. I recall that day vividly, packing a bag in preparation to stay with him until he improved. Ultimately, we knew he was in the best place, albeit painfully, and the visible relief on my parents' faces upon our return was palpable. Though a portion of the burden had been lifted, an entrenched sense of guilt lingered.

What ensued was six grueling weeks of doctor assessments and trials with various treatments and medications. Throughout, our predominant query persisted: 'What afflicts him, and how can we rectify it?' Our emotions often clouded our judgment as we scrutinised the system, the actions of the medical professionals, and visitation schedules. This internal strife proved unhelpful. What we truly required was education, prompting our family's collective research efforts.

Then, unexpectedly, a breakthrough arrived; for reasons unknown, my brother's behavior normalized, leading to his discharge after eight weeks. Our elation was profound, yet we harbored no illusions that the real work had just commenced. How could we avert a recurrence, given the high propensity for relapse?

Extensive research, participation in focus groups, and consultations with my brother's doctor facilitated our comprehension of potential trigger points for his relapse. Despite difficulties arising from conflicting family theories that still linger to this day, we persisted.

Years passed, I got married and had two children. During that time, my brother gained confidence and finally came out as gay—something I had suspected but was immensely proud of him for embracing.

However, one weekend, the strange behavior resurfaced. Even though we identified some trigger points early, it escalated rapidly and was significantly worse. This time, he became violent and I had to restrain him, eventually having to force him to the ground. This was not our brother; he had relapsed, and immediate action was necessary. What had we missed, why didn’t we see this sooner?

My parents were devastated, and I found myself once again in the familiar role of trying to maintain our family's stability. His condition had significantly worsened, as warned it might. I refrain from delving into the subsequent months' experiences, an ordeal I wouldn't wish upon anyone. Eventually, my parents required respite, prompting my other brother and me to assume full responsibility. Our complementary approaches, my directness juxtaposed with my other brother's empathy and understanding, proved effective. Progress ensued in tandem with improvements in his state of mind. Upon my parents' return, they received news of his relocation to a 'halfway house.' While initially promising, old behavioral patterns resurfaced. Yet this time, we were equipped with coping strategies and support systems for my brother. Addressing a gambling addiction with my brother further complicated matters, but as a family, we achieved unity, making joint decisions even amid disagreements. Learning when to confront him directly and when to exercise restraint was pivotal, resulting in significant improvements. Presently, my brother leads a fulfilling life with his partner, the happiest I have ever witnessed.

However, we remain vigilant for any signs that may cause my brother to relapse. COVID was a concern, but thankfully, all has been well.

You may question the relevance of this narrative to the property industry, specifically the HMO sector. It holds relevance for everyone. Over the last six months, I've spoken to many in the property industry about this topic, and it's amazing to hear how many feel they aren't the same person as they were before COVID. In particular landlords with a portfolio of HMO’s who simply cannot cope with the stress that managing them brings, and that tenants in HMO’s typically face higher levels of mental illness due to lower income. Yet within a houseshare there's the unique opportunity for landlords to help by creating a community environment that encourages them to be open and support each other. I know landlords who provide a free subscription to a mental health line. Offering education about MS in the welcome pack for example

The most challenging aspect is the inability to definitively diagnose mental illness due to the brain's complexity. It's unlike mending a broken bone, where a cast ensures complete healing in eight weeks, often even stronger than before. Often, doctors must experiment with various drugs to ascertain the most effective response, with no guarantees of success. From my experience, education stands as the paramount tool in our arsenal. Understanding the genesis of mental illness, its ramifications, recognising signs of distress, and adopting supportive measures are fundamental.

Often, the strongest individuals harbor past experiences unbeknownst to others. It's essential not to hastily judge based solely on outward appearances.

COVID undoubtedly added to this, especially with most of our industry working from home. Isolation isn't easy for anyone, and not being around others certainly influenced some. While our industry has thrived during the pandemic, we shouldn't let success blind us to what's happening behind the scenes. Exceptional highs are just as dangerous as the lows, and we all need to prepare for the inevitable changes in the current property market, not just from a business perspective but also for our people.

I am confident that each of us knows at least ten individuals grappling with some form of mental illness—be it anxiety, depression, or something more severe.

If you're concerned about your tenants, colleagues, or co-workers in the property sector, I implore you to take action rather than doing nothing. A landlord’s responsibility can be more than the legal requirements nowadays. Chances are, one of them is battling some form of mental illness, and they might be too afraid to speak up or even realise something is wrong. If a tenant is suffering, they are likely to be missing work and then in turn are more at risk to enter into arrears with their rent. Education is crucial, but a quick phone call, regular contact, and instilling confidence in people to open up about their struggles are immensely important. Above all, listen—be patient and show empathy."

* Richard Milner is sales director at software management service COHO *

Want to comment on this story? If so...if any post is considered to victimise, harass, degrade or intimidate an individual or group of individuals on any basis, then the post may be deleted and the individual immediately banned from posting in future.

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    Is this man mad ? Landlords have enormous problems without becoming the social services. Further l note that l cannot find a diagnosis for his condition. Were drugs involved ? Cannabis is well known for causing serious mental illness. The government is whipping up a hysteria against landlords in order to handed the PRS to the financial institution . During COVID, 3 landlords were murdered by their tenants.

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    What about the Landlord’s mental health with constant vilification and outside meddling?!!

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    I know from first hand experience the what effect the hate propaganda has on landlords and their families the outrageous lies and disinformation spewed out by both some politicians and the three big hate gangs with their multi million propaganda budgets is becoming increasingly vicious and extreme
    This level of relentless hate crime would not be allowed against any other minority group as we all know
    It was terrifying enough when the extremist's considered landlords children to be collateral damage but now we see that their tactics have changed and they are deliberately targeting vulnerable children in order to terrorise families into exiting buy to let
    I am sure many of us will have witnessed the mental trauma suffered by the victims of these attacks
    We need to ask ourselves what kind of people allow and encourage the abuse and phycological torture of defenceless children in to further their financial and political agenda

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    While I have the greatest respect & sympathy for the man and his family its not fair to load it on us.
    What’s all this to do with renting. The Authorities are certainly doing plenty to drive any Landlord mad, Oh I forgot we are irreverent it doesn’t matter what stress we have to absorb .

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    Before I even read the article … “I just knew” this would be about a tenant! People have absolutely no idea the s*** many landlords have to go through and put up with to provide excellent housing which the state can’t. Time for rebalance and “levelling up” as they call it now towards landlords.
    Ive been a landlord for over 30 years and the last 16 months have probably been some of the darkest, albeit we’re getting there now.
    I hope the lad gets the help he needs but it works both ways.

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    Unbelievable! Landlords are landlords! We're not social services or charities or anything else! Ffs!! Get a grip and stop putting this cr*p on here. This forum is losing more and more credibility each day..

  • Sarah Fox-Moore

    My sympathies to this family..
    But really, we should do what? Let me get this straight, Landlords are already required to be:-
    1. Immigration Control for the Gov
    2. Police anti social behaviour
    3. Social Services & Benefits officers
    4. Environmental Advocates: Steering Tenants "mind-set & behaviours" re sustainable "green/environmental" issues
    5. Responsible for any & all mould & condensation in a property even when obviously caused by tenants behaviours
    And now need to also be
    6. Mental Health workers
    7. Financial advisors & Citizens Advice
    🤦‍♀️ All whilst doing that 👆 for free, renting the property out at break even or a loss, and being vilified by the media so we are loathed by the general public, government and Tenants.

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    Why do we still have Breathing Space . For rent arrears. And should it be claimed early in the long drawn out process.
    I was trying to evict Tenants who run up months /years of arrears . Made up a fictious counter claim statement over the phone to a duty solicitor . Never appeared in court No evidence provided . Delay after delay. Government willing to provide unlimited resources to these rent dodgers.

    Finally get a Eviction date. Bailiffs ready to go. Two Hours Before eviction time. The court receives a Fax from the Breathing Space (Citizens Advice I think were running it) Everything stops for another 3 months . Eventually got possession. Tenants Left a Note
    `The Landlord has spent a lot of time and Money trying to get me out and I do not even live here.` According to the neighbours they had left months before¬ all of the mail found was from someone who had been subletting from them.

    Sarah Fox-Moore

    And they wonder why landlords are selling up en masse and/or hyper picky regarding Tenant selection. I tell EVERYONE who is considering btl..DO NOT DO IT. Put your money in Paragon or Marcus.

     
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    And this is why we are selling up !! 🆘 Let the councils sink under the pressure of the newly evicted, they may then understand 🤔

     
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    Just asking for trouble taking on a tenant with mental health problems, leave them to the council to house, not part of our job description, sad as it is these people need expert help which the NHS is failing to deliver

    Sarah Fox-Moore

    Absolutely

     
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    I have a cousin with mental health issues caused by drug taking. He achieved 6 O-levels despite not studying and skipping a lot of lessons. I got three. He has wasted his life on benefits. I have not. As a landlord the deal is I provide good accommodation in return for a market rent. I am neither a social worker, nor a mental health expert. I am a landlord - for now.

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    We pay more than our share of taxes, including income tax on turnover which no other business has to pay, and double council tax on empty properties.

    We expect our taxes to be used to help those in need, not to have to provide this help ourselves after already paying for it to be provided.

    Of course so much of our taxes now goes to pay public "servants" who "work" from home and providing diversity training for exasperated colleagues who sigh or raise eyebrows at those not earning their keep and become offended by any criticism of their many shortcomings.

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    Robert, Have you not heard? Sighing, raising eyebrows or rolling your eyes are now classed as microagressions.

     
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    Yes. That's what the expensive diversity training is intended to "fix".

    In Glasgow, we don't do microagression - just the full fat in your face physically felt version - much more effective and satisfying for the perpetrator!

     
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    Landlord today has to stop posting such articles. As the majority above state, this is not a landlord issue, therefore what is the intent when posting such articles? I hope this site is not being influenced by the Woke leftist ideology. Stop it!

    Sarah Fox-Moore

    Exactly. This cr@p is getting beyond irrelevant and into the realms of Insanely inappropriate.

     
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    Landlords are, like any member of the public, sympathetic people but are not qualified doctors.

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    Sympathetic up to a point until we are taken advantage of

     
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    What? Firstly, the genuine people with MHI are often drowned out by the many more who think having a bad day is a MHI. This mental health epidemic is manufactured by pharma to sell drugs and government in order to control the weak majority. I run 42 HMOs and have seen it all. You want to know why MH is an issue in this sector? DRUGS. Plain and simple. I will tell you from first hand experience that every single person I have identified as vulnerable drinks too much and suffers from drug induced psychosis. For them a minor setback becomes a crisis. The sad thing as i say is their noise drowns out those with real MHI.

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