CYMRAEG

Mental Health and the Private Rented Sector 
 
Having a ‘home’ is more than just having a roof over our head. Having somewhere to call home is essential to living a healthy and well balanced life for everyone. A home grounds us and provides us with roots and connections to the local community. For those of us with a mental health condition, a home is vital to our recovery and staying well. Housing and mental health are often linked. Issues such as poor housing conditions, having problems with your landlord and being at risk of homelessness are some examples of how housing can impact our mental health. Whilst, poor mental health can have a negative impact on how we cope with housing issues. 
 
The rapid expansion of the private rented sector (PRS) over the last decade has meant that an increasing number of us are now tenants within this sector. With limited social housing stock, the PRS is increasingly the only viable option of housing for a number of people including those who would traditionally have had their needs met by social landlords. This includes people with complex mental health conditions. Despite how common it is to have a mental health condition, (1 in 4 people have a mental health problem. (Office for National Statistics, Psychiatric Morbidity (2007)), there are still significant barriers for people when trying to access PRS accommodation. 
 
One of the barriers experienced when trying to access the PRS is the stigma still attached to mental health. A survey conducted on behalf of Time to Change Wales found that 1 in 10 people in Wales believe that people with mental health problems are less trustworthy than those without. There has been limited research in to attitudes of private landlords towards tenants with mental health conditions but studies have found that tenants are discriminated against if they have a mental health condition. It is said that some landlords still hold stigmatising views such as ‘misconceptions’ about the ‘dangerousness’ of people with mental health problems, (Bengtsson-Tops & Hansson, 2014). This idea of ‘dangerousness’ fuels the negative image of mental health making it harder for people to access good quality homes. 
 
Another barrier when trying to access the private rented sector is the reluctance of the majority of landlords and letting agencies to rent out their properties to those on benefits. People with mental health conditions are more likely to be unemployed according to the ONS who found that less than a quarter of people with a long term mental health problem are employed, the lowest rate for any disability group. (Office of National Statistics, Labour Force Survey, 2003). As a result, they are more likely to be on benefits to support their housing costs. The ‘blanket ban’ on tenants in receipt of benefits makes it even more difficult to access good quality private rented housing for people with mental health problems. 
 
With negative perceptions associated with mental health and institutional barriers such as ‘No DSS’, a lot of people find that they have to accept unsuitable, poor quality housing that often exacerbates their mental health issues. Open Doors wants to help change that. We are a free service operating in Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan and Merthyr with the aim to make the PRS a fairer place for all. We work with landlords and tenants to support, advise and empower people on their equality rights and obligations. If you are a tenant having issues with your landlord, or you are a landlord and need some professional advice for your tenants then we can help! 
 

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