Today (Wednesday 18 March) is Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)’s My Whole Self Day, which is all about encouraging employees and colleagues to embrace and share their identities so that we can build deeper connections and work better together.

For the majority of landlords, their relationships with their tenants are generally considered to be strictly business. Some tenants may never even get the opportunity to meet their landlords and instead communicate through a property manager.

However, sometimes the relationship between a landlord and tenant can be more close and personal, especially in cases where a tenant has additional requirements such as a disability, illness or a particular set of circumstances that requires extra support from their landlord.

It may not be a legal obligation, but it is important for landlords to provide support for their tenants, especially during this challenging time, when so many lives are being affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Coming together and supporting your tenants during this time can help you to maintain a good landlord-tenant relationship, as well as helping to reassure tenants who may be concerned over recent developments and worries about issues such as paying the rent.

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Recent developments mean that landlords and tenants are facing unprecedented changes that are evolving rapidly on a daily basis. Most recently, a leading Labour MP called for emergency legislation to stop Coronavirus linked evictions, something that has also been discussed in Scotland in recent days. Now more than ever it is important to safeguard your landlord tenant relationship, support one another and stay up to date with industry news that could impact you both. Taking on this kind of responsibility can be challenging, so here are some key tips to help you support your tenants.

Understand your tenants

For you to be able to properly support your tenants, you first need to understand their needs. Your main priority may be generating income from your property, but it is equally important to ensure that your tenants are happy and healthy. This may mean that in challenging times, you need to prioritise your tenant’s wellbeing or look for workable solutions that benefit you both.

For example, those who are unable to work due to the effects of Coronavirus may struggle with their rental payments. This can be a very stressful situation for anyone to be in, and could be caused by something completely outside of their control. While not all landlords may be in a position to support tenants who cannot pay their rent, those who can may want to consider giving their tenants a rent holiday. This could alleviate a lot of stress for private renters and help them to cope with the situation. However, for some landlords offering a rent holiday may not be an option if their rental income is needed to support their own home and finances. Working closely with your tenants to explain your situation can be mutually beneficial. If you have elderly tenants, who may become isolated as a result of the Government’s self-isolation measures, consider whether there are any steps you can implement as a landlord to alleviate their concerns. This will depend on your own circumstances but could offer a lifeline for someone in need. Please do however ensure that this complies with all of the latest government guidance surrounding Coronavirus to keep you and your tenants safe. You can find the full government guidance here.

Communication

Communication is absolutely essential. It is important for landlords to establish a clear line of contact with their tenants. You should be forthcoming and welcome your tenants to discuss their concerns and issues with you. If you are aware of any ongoing issues that your tenant is facing you will be in a better position to understand how you can best support them.

Show your tenants that you are concerned for their wellbeing by reaching out, asking questions, and being available as much as you can.

With the current events happening across the country, it is vital that you communicate with your tenants as part of your safety precautions. This may require you to enhance your virtual relationship with your tenants, as face-to-face interactions are becoming increasingly restricted, especially for high risk groups. For example, before going to inspect your property, it is important to check whether anyone at the property is self-isolating and as a landlord it is a good idea to have a backup plan should you be unable to carry out any scheduled property inspections. Please follow NHS guidance at all times to ensure the continued safety of you and your tenants.

Now more than ever it is important to make sure that you have up to date contact details for your tenants and that you are able to communicate by phone or email when required.

Don’t just be a landlord, be a friend

As a landlord it is important to offer support and guidance for your tenants. Strong lines of communication can help to avoid major issues in your property and enable you to rectify any problems as soon as possible. At this time tenants may be weary of property inspections and unexpected visits so being forthcoming, supportive and understanding is exceptionally important. Nobody knows what the next few weeks will bring and this uncertainty will be causing many landlords to feel concerned and worried. Again, communicating this with your tenants will help both parties to understand the complexities of the situation from each other’s points of view. It is likely that you may share similar concerns at the present time.

As a landlord, issues such as property damage and loss of rent are concerning and always a source of worry no matter the global circumstances. It is important to be practical and prepared but importantly not to panic There is  plenty of landlord support and advice readily available to help you navigate this current situation. Read more about how you can protect your mental health as a landlord here.

My tenant needs additional mental health support, what do I do?

If you have a tenant that requires additional support, your responsibility as a landlord may differ from usual. You will need to understand and be sensitive to your tenant’s situation, and adapt your approach accordingly.

The NLA’s guide on helping tenants with mental health conditions is a useful resource for landlords and shares key tips including:

  • Avoid trying to solve the problem yourself
  • Co-ordinate with the tenant’s family and social worker where possible
  • Inform yourself on crisis intervention
  • Assist your tenant with tenancy documentation and filling out the rental application
  • Try to be present when a stranger, such as a tradesperson, visits the property
  • Be flexible with your ‘no-pets’ policies if the tenant has an emotional support or service animal prescribed by their doctor

Always seek professional advice before offering support to ensure that you a providing suitable support and advice to your tenants.

By applying these strategies, you can find effective solutions to make sure that both you and your tenants are happy, secure and safe in your property. For more advice on landlord and tenant relationships, visit Hamilton Fraser’s guide ‘The 5 Cs: Hamilton Fraser’s key soft skills for landlords’.

As the situation regarding Coronavirus develops day by day we strongly advise all landlords to regularly check the government website for the latest advice to ensure that you are acting in accordance with the recommended guidance at that time.

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