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How can you support your tenant's mental wellbeing, as well as your own?

Today (Wednesday 18 March) is Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)'sMyWhole Self Day, which is all about encouraging employees andcolleagues to embrace and share their identities so that we can build deeperconnections and work better together.

For the majority of landlords, their relationships withtheir tenants are generally considered to be strictly business. Some tenants maynever even get the opportunity to meet their landlords and instead communicatethrough a property manager.

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

It may not be a legal obligation, but it is important forlandlords to provide support for their tenants, especially during thischallenging time, when so many lives are being affected by the Coronaviruspandemic. Coming together and supporting your tenants during this time can helpyou to maintain a good landlord-tenant relationship, as well as helping toreassure tenants who may be concerned over recent developments and worries aboutissues such as paying the rent.

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, youfirst need to understand their needs. Your main priority may be generatingincome from your property, but it is equally important to ensure that yourtenants are happy and healthy. This may mean that in challenging times, you needto prioritise your tenant's wellbeing or look for workable solutions thatbenefit 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 forlandlords to establish a clear line of contact with their tenants. You shouldbe forthcoming and welcome your tenants to discuss their concerns and issueswith you. If you are aware of any ongoing issues that your tenant is facing youwill be in a better position to understand how you can best support them.

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

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

Now more than ever it is important to make sure that youhave up to date contact details for your tenants and that you are able to communicateby 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 ofrent 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 Thereis  plenty of landlord support and advicereadily available to help you navigate this current situation. Read more abouthow you can protectyour mental health as a landlord here.

My tenant needsadditional mental health support, what do I do?

If you have a tenant that requires additional support, yourresponsibility as a landlord may differ from usual. You will need to understandand be sensitive to your tenant's situation, and adapt your approachaccordingly.

The NLA'sguide on helping tenants with mental health conditions is a usefulresource for landlords and shares key tips including:

  • Avoid trying to solve the problem yourself
  • Co-ordinate with the tenant's family and socialworker where possible
  • Inform yourself on crisis intervention
  • Assist your tenant with tenancy documentationand filling out the rental application
  • Try to be present when a stranger, such as atradesperson, visits the property
  • Be flexible with your '�no-pets' policies if thetenant 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 effectivesolutions to make sure that both you and your tenants are happy, secure andsafe in your property. For more advice on landlord and tenant relationships,visit Hamilton Fraser's guide '�The5 Cs: Hamilton Fraser's key soft skills for landlords'.

As the situation regarding Coronavirus develops day by daywe strongly advise all landlords to regularly check the governmentwebsite for the latest advice to ensure that you are acting in accordancewith the recommended guidance at that time.

For breaking news in the private rented sector visit LandlordZONE.

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