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For the past 18 years we have been private landlords in Somerset and wish to draw your attention to a growing problem of tenants suffering from mental health issues, who are renting in the private sector but should, in our opinion be in a supervised place of safety. They are costing us a lot of money and causing unacceptable damage.
During the past few years we have seen tenants go in and out of hospital or secure units, have daily visits from the Intensive Support Team (a branch of Social Services) and on occasions the Police have forced entry under Section 17 PACE to ensure the safety and well being of our tenants. Deposits rarely cover the cost of repairs which can run into hundreds of pounds and the Police suggest we claim off our insurance for the damage they have on occasions unnecessarily caused.
Initially tenants appear fit and responsible – quite independent and friendly, obviously grateful for somewhere to live independently. We have in the past experienced serious rent arrears and the normal damage which comes with the territory of being a landlord, however this is a new breed of tenant – who could be dangerous not only to themselves but others living in the same block. We are getting an increasing number of inquiries from all walks of life and are housing these vulnerable people as there does not seem to be adequate facilities in place to look after them in the UK care system currently, possibly due to cutbacks in Local Authority budgets. They demand a lot of care and attention in the community and information about their medical background is scant. Social Services and the Police hide behind the Data Protection Act or patient confidentiality, so any information must be obtained from the tenant themselves. This can be dubious, therefore it seems very unfair and we wish to warn other landlords about this serious problem. The priority is a roof over their head ignoring the consequences of their mental state and what they may do to the property, themselves or others.
As accredited landlords we take our duty seriously to all tenants and if one tenant is thought to be ‘vulnerable’ we have to tread carefully. Recently we received a text from one such tenant expressing her wish to catch herself on fire – she was unsuccessful thankgoodness, although she was self harming and made a serious attempt to catch herself alight. She claimed to be hearing voices telling her to do this and we feel it was a cry for help. This lady was also caught on the beach with two machete knives and subsequently sectioned under the MHA. Within 24 hours she was released from hospital and back home making similar threats. We have had to alert our insurance company of the risk that this tenant poses. This is just one such tenant that resides with us and we have at least two others that we suspect are of a similar ilk.
The risk involved of accepting tenants who are receiving ‘care in the community’ rather than residing at a place of safety is scary. We do not know if they have taken their medication or what their true risk is. We have in the past alerted the local Police about these vulnerable tenants but they simply bash the door down and walk away from the real problem, which is a secure place to meet their medical needs.
Please be careful in accepting anyone who you think may have a history of mental health problems.
A very sad situation for whoever is going through such problems. Is there anyway you could get other landlords local to you, and write to the police and relevant organisations to see if a meeting can be set up, so that your fears could be discussed and perhaps find a way forward. Obviously staying within the legal framework?
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