Mental health in the private rented sector
High-quality, stable housing is key to maintaining good mental health and vital for recovery from mental illness, says Mind senior policy and campaigns officer Glenn Page.
Yet people with mental health problems are much more likely to live in poor-quality accommodation and are dramatically over-represented amongst people who are homeless. In all, one in four tenants with mental health problems is in serious rent arrears and is at risk of losing their home. Unsurprisingly, GPs spontaneously identify housing issues as a common contributing factor to their patients’ poor mental health.
Yet despite extensive research on the relationship between mental health and housing, there are still significant evidence gaps. There is limited research that looks specifically at mental health in the private rented sector; especially in a Welsh context. Meanwhile, the number of people renting privately continues to grow at pace, particularly among young people.
In 2018, we surveyed over 100 Mind campaigners, supporters and members of the public, almost two thirds of whom had lived in private rented accommodation, to better understand their experiences. More than half of people with a mental health problem told us their past housing situation had made their mental health worse or caused a mental health problem. A handful of issues appeared again and again throughout people’s experiences: stigma, money, housing stock and quality. Alongside these quality issues, people highlight the need for better information and support, with thirty percent reporting difficulties understanding their rights.
We know there are also some specific challenges where it is crucial that support is provided. For example, if someone experiences a mental health crisis – particularly if it leads to hospital admission – it can lead to them losing their home. Similarly, the period after leaving hospital is one of high risk for homelessness, readmission, or suicide.
Access to appropriate accommodation and regular follow-up can significantly improve outcomes. Timely regular floating support helps people to sustain their tenancies, reduces housing management problems and can improve physical and mental health. Floating support is also particularly important in helping people manage the transition between different forms of housing support – such as the shift from supported housing to private renting. So too is providing advice and information to ensure tenants are informed of their rights and know where to access support when they need it.
We welcome the new report on private renting and mental health from Tyfu Tai Cymru – it is clear that there is a lack of support for both tenants and landlords. Providing adequate and effective services to support landlords and tenants experiencing mental health problems will not only reduce the growing pressure on mental health services; it is a crucial element of providing the sort of holistic mental health support we know is needed for recovery and to stay well.