Tenant's Toolkit

Mental and physical health awareness

Mental health

According to mental health charity Mind, "approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week".

Poor mental health can make it harder for tenants to cope with housing problems, while being in danger of becoming homeless or having problems in their home can make their mental health worse.

What impacts can housing problems have?

Homelessness and housing problems can trigger mental health problems including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, psychosis, self-harm or suicidal feelings. They can also make existing problems worse or make it harder to cope.

Not all mental health problems are obvious and tenants may attempt to hide their difficulties if they believe that revealing them could cause them to lose their homes.

Hoarding

What is hoarding disorder?

  • Until recently, hoarding disorder was thought to be a form of OCD. But Hoarding disorder has recently being recognised as a separate condition, although there is not yet much research into the problem
  • Hoarding is characterised by two major behaviours: Acquiring too many possessions and experiencing difficulties in discarding them when they are no longer of use.
  • When these behaviours lead to clutter becoming a threat to a person’s health or safety, or they cause significant distress, then hoarding becomes a ‘disorder’.

Support for Hoarding

  • If you believe someone has a hoarding disorder, the NHS advises you to encourage them to make contact with a GP, who can help arrange counselling or prescribe anti-depressants.
  • Bromley & Lewisham MIND run a number of peer support group for more information on this – call 0208 289 5020 or access their website.
  • There is an independent peer support group for hoarders that meets weekly in Orpington. Please call 01689822111 to inquire about the group.
  • The Royal College of Psychiatrists have produced a Hoarding Leaflet here.

For more information on Hoarding Disorder, visit Hoarding UK’s page here.

Hoarding Case Study

The following is a case study from Clarion Housing Association, which is the largest housing association in the country, owning and managing 125,000 homes across over 170 local authorities.

  • Clarion Tenancy Sustainment in London worked alongside neighbourhood housing officers to facilitate access to a property for the annual gas inspection. The resident is a hoarder and this had meant that moving around the property was difficult and he was unable to access his bed and was sleeping on the floor
  • Clarion Housing Association has a responsibility as a landlord to ensure the safety and standard of the property is maintained and this case study shows how by focusing on the tenant and co-ordinating colleagues and local support – Clarion was able to make it a success story
  • The impact on this resident’s life has been huge – the success has been due to Clarion being able to make a series of interventions, co-ordinating support and local services around the resident
  • Firstly accessing the property with the gas contractor who was able to arrange joint visits with tenancy sustainment allowing the boiler to be checked and repaired, then as further repairs were carried out some of the hoarded items were cleared
  • The Tenancy Sustainability Officer was able to apply to charities successfully and get the tenant a new cooker, bed and mattress
  • His family were able to offer their time to help him declutter and sort through items and the resident has started painting his flat
  • The housing officer was able to visit regularly and reinforce his tenancy agreement highlighting what was required regarding maintaining his flat
  • The Tenancy Sustainment Officer worked with the resident, his family and Clarion colleagues to help clear his property. The resident has now opened his curtains for the first time in 10 years. During this process we have seen this individual grow, he now smiles, is open about his difficulties and is engaging with others. His sense of humour is evident and he reports having enjoyment in life again
  • A tenancy has been sustained without the costs of eviction and a trusted relationship between resident and the Housing association has been achieved.

Physical health

You might notice your tenant exhibiting physical symptoms such as dizzy spells, hair loss, and appearing exhausted or sick. These could be signs of mental or physical health problems, and it is important that get seen by a doctor so they can check them over and help them access the right kind of treatment.

Assisting your tenant in getting support and treatment

Having a conversation with a tenant about their health is not always straightforward, as they may take offence at the implication that they are unable look after themselves or consider the question to be a breach of privacy. It helps if you already have a good relationship with the tenant

Treat the topic as gently as possible, first enquiring as to their health and then pointing out any significant changes you may have noticed. If this provokes or borders on an argument, postpone the discussion until your next meeting.

Although it may not be the reason you chose to become a landlord, an increased awareness of the problems tenants face will prepare you for future encounters and ensure that you are able to develop a good working relationship with your tenants.

Mental health awareness courses and resources

You can find courses on increasing your awareness of mental health and coping strategies on Bromley & Lewisham Mind’s website here.