Report on private renting and mental health provides examples of good practice
The report on private renting and mental health by Tyfu Tai Cymru, as part of the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru and Tai Pawb, found a number of gaps in the current provision, writes Bill Rowlands, housing networks officer at Newport City Council.
The report's key findings are:
- No dedicated service in Wales for private rented sector landlords whose tenants have a mental health problem.
- There is limited information on mental health support for tenants provided by the main membership and regulatory bodies for private sector landlords.
- Tenants with mental health issues are not always being signposted to appropriate services in time to help them maintain their tenancy
- There are gaps in emergency support to help people at a time of crisis
Good practice examples
The report highlights substantial work to be done; there are a number of good examples of housing and supporting people officers who are managing to reach into the private rented sector to support their tenants and landlords.
In Wrexham, there is a well-attended and active landlord forum, run by the Public Protection and Housing Standards Department. The joint Housing Options and Supporting People Leads presented the local authority’s homeless strategy and outlined to landlords what was required of them for the strategy to be achieved. In line with the Housing Act of 2014, there was an emphasis on the private rented sector as a means of discharging out of homelessness. The leads assured the landlords that they would not be left alone after accommodating individuals who may suffer from mental health issues. By citing a specific mental health officer who sits in the Housing Options Team, and due to the proximity of Wrexham, the outreach workers will know the individuals who may be suffering with mental health issues who will potentially need more support. The Leads reiterated the importance of having access to a responsive support service when it was required and the fact that landlords know that the support is there. The forum was a great success as over 60 landlords signed up to work with the local authority to help house those previously deemed ‘problematic’ tenants.
In Bridgend, again, the landlord forum proved the means of reaching into the private rented sector to better support both tenants and landlords. The forum has hosted presentations from all of the service providers and stakeholders who operate in Bridgend and the wider communities on what services are available in the area. They have hosted a senior research officer from Shelter Cymru to discuss working with vulnerable tenants and in partnership with a wide variety of partners such as other third sector support providers, Probation, BCBC Community Safety Partnership, PCSO’s and their role in the community, and many more.
Of particular interest to landlords in Bridgend has been the Early Doors service – a service provided by the Wallich – that focuses on early intervention and prevention for landlords and tenants in the private rented sector. The free service is offered to landlords and tenants initially to address rent arrears within the private rented sector, but due to its success has been rolled out to include any tenancy related issue. The service seeks to obtain consent from tenants upon signing new tenancies, to enable the support workers to assist tenants in the future, should they require assistance to sustain and maintain their tenancies. Landlords are encouraged to use the consent form as part of their tenancy agreement and/or occupation contract.
In Caerphilly, mental health service provision and support is a major area of focus for housing, homelessness and support outreach in the borough. Thus, the borough work in a way that reflects this approach. Housing officers have helped tenants to maximise their income when threatened with eviction and they have liaised with the landlord to explain the position and seek their patience whilst problems are being sorted out. They have intervened where poor property conditions have been the cause of potential eviction, e.g. hoarding, and have financially assisted tenants to have their properties/gardens cleared and, again, liaised with landlords to seek their patience whilst things are resolved.
All three examples highlight the importance of communication, breaking down the stigma attached to mental health issues, and the ability to work flexibly to best support both tenants and landlords.