Housing and mental health

Explains how your mental health and your housing situation might affect each other. Provides tips on how to cope and where you can get more support.

Your stories

Homeless with PTSD - how drumming helped me through

Matt blogs about overcoming his past to break the drumming world record for Mind.

Matt
Posted on 10/08/2017

Support not sanctions

Kerry blogs about being too unwell to work and needing support from the welfare system but being let down.

Kerry
Posted on 17/05/2017

Support when you leave hospital

We're calling for everyone leaving hospital after a mental health crisis to be followed up within 48 hours.

Ally Cobb, Mind Senior Policy and Campaigns officer
Posted on 12/04/2017

What are my housing rights?

This page gives an overview of your rights as someone with a mental health problem in the following situations:

Our legal pages on discrimination when buying, renting or living in property also have more information.

(Please note: the legal information on this page only applies to adults living in England and Wales.)

Quick tips on asserting your housing rights:

  • Get a letter from your GP, or another health or social care professional, to show how an issue has affected your mental health, or how your mental health affects the issue.
  • Keep records as evidence. Take photographs and keep copies of any letters, emails and text messenger correspondence. If you have a verbal conversation with someone make a note of it afterwards, including the date and the person’s name.

The condition of the property I rent is making my mental health problem worse

According to the law, whoever you rent from, your home should be free from hazards to your physical and mental health (including communal parts and outside space). You can read about common health hazards, and how risks to your health and safety should be assessed, on Shelter’s website here.

If you rent from the council or from a housing association, or you live in sheltered or supported housing, then your home must also meet the government’s ‘Decent Homes Standard’. See Shelter’s page on what counts as a ‘decent home’ for information about what this means.

What is my landlord legally required to fix?

There are certain things that your landlord is always legally responsible for, no matter what it says in your tenancy agreement. See Shelter’s information on landlord and tenant responsibilities for repairs for details. Your landlord is also required to make any repairs they’re responsible for within a reasonable timeframe – although what’s reasonable will depend on what the problem is.

However, your landlord is not responsible for fixing things if:

  • they don’t know about the problem because you haven’t told them about it, or
  • you’ve caused the problem yourself by not taking reasonable care of the property.

Should I stop paying my rent?

No. If you don’t pay your rent on time then your landlord could take steps to evict you.

However, if the repairs are minor you might be able to organise it yourself and agree to deduct the cost from your rent. See Shelter’s guide to doing repairs when your landlord won't for advice on this.

What if I’ve not taken care of the property because of my mental health problem?

If you and your landlord disagree over the cause of a particular problem and whose responsibility it is to fix it, or you feel you're being discriminated against, then it’s best to get professional legal advice on your specific situation – especially if you’re being threatened with eviction as a result of the disagreement.

If your home is in a bad state because of your mental health problem and you're struggling to maintain it, then you may be able to get support from your local council. See our legal pages on your health and social care rights for more information on this.

How can I make my landlord meet their legal responsibilities to fix my home?

Unfortunately, landlords and councils don’t always do what they’re legally required to. If you’re sure a problem is definitely your landlord’s responsibility to fix, you can take these steps:

  1. Report the problem to your landlord, and encourage them to meet their responsibilities. It’s usually best to resolve issues informally like this if you can.
    • If you rent privately see Shelter’s guide to this here.
    • If you rent through the council or a housing association, see Shelter’s guide to this here.
  2. Report your landlord to the environmental health department of your local council. You can do this regardless of who you rent from. An inspector may be sent round to assess your home for health hazards, but the powers they have may vary depending on whether you rent privately or not. See Shelter’s guide to this here.
  3. Make a formal complaint (if your landlord is a council or housing association).  See Shelter’s guide to this here.  If you’re not happy with their response, you can take your complaint to:
    • the Housing Ombusdman (in England) – see Shelter’s guide to this here
    • the Public Service Ombudsman (in Wales) – see Shelter’s guide to this  here.
  4. Take them to court. If you win your case you could get compensation, but be aware that court proceedings can often be expensive and stressful. You can only get legal aid for cases about the condition of your home if it is a danger to your health. See Shelter’s guide to this here.

Example

Kenny has severe depression, and struggles to maintain his rented flat in any way. He's noticed there is a large damp patch in his kitchen, which is causing mould growth on the walls and ceilings.

Kenny suspects the damp comes from a leaking water pipe somewhere. He texts his landlord to tell her about the problem, but after several months his landlord has done nothing, and the mould has got worse. She says that it's Kenny’s fault because he never cleans or opens the windows in his flat to ventilate it, so it’s not her responsibility to fix.

Kenny asks his GP to write a short letter saying how his depression has been a factor in worsening the state of his home, and also how the damp and mould has been been affecting his mental health. Kenny shows the GP’s letter and the texts he has sent his landlord to the council, who send a health inspector round to the property.

After assessing the damp, the inspector writes to the landlord and suggests a schedule of repairs for her to carry out to the water pipes. He also suggests that Kenny contact the council's social services department and ask for his needs to be assessed, to see if he can get support to help maintain him home better.

I’m facing eviction because of issues relating to my mental health problem

Whether or not your landlord needs to have a particular reason to evict you depends on how you occupy your home:

  • Lodgers – your landlord doesn’t need a reason to evict you and can just ask you to leave.
  • Private tenants (with an assured shorthold tenancy) – your landlord doesn’t need a reason to evict you, but they must send you the correct documentation (called a 'section 21 notice') and follow the correct procedure.
  • Tenants with other kinds of tenancy agreement. In this case your landlord needs to show that their reason for evicting you is one of the reasons set out in the law (called ‘grounds for possession’). These could include:
    • You’re behind on paying your rent (in arrears).
    • You, people who live with you, or your guests have behaved in an antisocial or criminal way (such as regularly playing loud music or dealing drugs).
    • You’ve allowed the property to get into disrepair because you’ve neglected it.

Can my landlord evict me if the reason is to do with my mental health problem?

If your mental health problem is classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, then the law protects you from being unlawfully discriminated against.

Your landlord can’t evict you just because they find out you have a particular mental health problem – this is likely to be direct discrimination. This is the case even if the landlord does not need a reason to evict you (for example, because you are an assured shorthold tenant).

It might also be considered ‘discrimination arising from disability’ if your landlord is trying to evict you because:

  • You're behind on your rent (in arrears) as a result of money problems related to your mental health problem, for example because:
  • Your antisocial behaviour is a result of your mental health problem.
  • You’ve not been living in the property while you’ve been detained in hospital (sectioned).
  • You’ve neglected your home because you’ve been too unwell to take care of it.

If your landlord goes to court to claim possession of your home, and you say this is discrimination, then the court will have to look closely at the details of your situation. They will need to carefully balance:

  • the landlord’s reasons for wanting to evict you
  • how bad things would be for you if you were to be evicted.

If the court decides that the landlord's reasons are ‘justified’, then it's not discrimination for them to evict you. But the court may consider alternative solutions to try instead.

Example

Priya has a diagnosis of schizophrenia, which amounts to a disability. She rents her flat from a housing association. 

Her mental health problem is a factor in her regularly shouting through the walls at her next-door neighbour, whom she believes is spying on her. Priya's neighbour has complained that her behaviour is antisocial, and the landlord takes Priya to court to try to evict her. Priya claims that this is discrimination arising from her disability.

After carefully looking at her case, the court decides that it would not be justified for the landlord to evict Priya, because eviction would be disproportionate to the situation (over the top). The court decides to make a ‘suspended order for possession’, which means that so long as Priya stops doing the antisocial behaviour she can stay in her flat. However, if she carries on doing antisocial behaviour the landlord will then be allowed to go ahead with evicting her.

If your landlord does start eviction proceedings then it’s very important to get professional housing advice.

Eviction from council or housing association properties

If you rent your property from the council or from a housing association and are vulnerable because of your mental health, then your landlord may have to follow specific steps to lawfully evict you (called a pre-action protocol). See Shelter’s information on pre-action protocol procedures.

 

People want to enter my home without my permission because of my mental health problem

If you own or rent a property then your home is your own and generally people cannot lawfully enter it without your permission. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

The Police

  • Assessing your mental health. In certain situations the police can get a magistrates court warrant to enter your home to take you to a place of safety so that a mental health assessment can be carried out under section 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Your local council

  • Environmental protection. If your local council believes that your home is so filthy that it is a health hazard, or that it has serious problems with vermin, then it can send you a notice requiring you to remedy the condition of your home. If you fail to do this then the council can come into your home and do this work themselves (regardless of whether you own your home, rent it privately, or rent it from the council). This is an issue that sometimes affects people who have difficulties with hoarding.

Your landlord (if you rent)

  • Repairs & safety. Your tenancy agreement may give the landlord the right to enter your property, usually to deal with repairs or to carry out a gas safety check. However, in this case the landlord should ask for your permission first.
  • Property inspections. Your landlord has the right to inspect the condition of the property, so long as they give you 24 hours’ notice in writing. If you don’t let your landlord in to inspect the property then they might apply for a court order to force you to let them in (called an 'injunction'). There’s even a chance that your landlord will apply to the court evict you if you don’t give them access to your home to inspect and carry out repairs.

I need specialist accommodation because of my mental health problem

  • Extra help to live in your home. You may be entitled to get some social care support from your local council. See our legal pages on your health and social care rights for more information on this.
  • Supported housing. This is a kind of scheme that includes accommodation, care and support as part of an integrated package, to help people with more severe difficulties live as independently as possible. For information on the different types of supported housing that are available, and how to apply for and pay for it, see Rethink Mental Illness’ guide to supported housing. You can also find information on Homeless Link’s website.
  • Crisis housing. There may be times when you need short-term accommodation services to help you deal with a mental health crisis – although this isn't something you have a legal right to, and tends to depend on availability of services near you. See our pages on crisis services and crisis houses for more information.
  • Voluntary hospital admission. You might feel that staying in hospital would be the best way to keep you safe and get the level of treatment you need – although this isn't something you have a legal right to, and tends to depend on availability of services near you. See our page on hospital admission for more information.

Mind is campaigning for better services

We believe that when you're living with a mental health problem, you need somewhere suitable to call home, with access has access to the support you need, when you need it.

>Find out more about Mind's campaigning work on housing and mental health.

>Find out more about Mind's campaigning work on crisis care.

I’m about to be discharged from hospital and I have nowhere to live

If you have nowhere to live when you leave hospital, or there are problems with where you live (such as rent arrears or disrepair), then there are several things you can do:

  • If you’ve been sectioned under sections 3, 37, 45A, 47 or 48 of the Mental Health Act 1983, or have been placed on a community treatment order (CTO), or have been conditionally discharged then you are entitled to free section 117 aftercare services. Council accommodation is not provided as part of section 117 aftercare, but you may be able to get supported accommodation. (See our page on section 117 aftercare for more information.)
  • If you’ve been detained under a different section of the Mental Health Act, or have been a voluntary patient, you’re not entitled to section 117 aftercare. However:
    • The council may be under a duty to assess your needs, and you may be eligible for some support with your accommodation. See our legal pages on your health and social care rights for more information.
    • If you will be homeless when you are discharged, then the council must either help you find a home or give you advice on how to find one.

For more information on your rights see our legal pages on leaving hospital. We also have more general tips on managing your housing situation during hospital stays.

I’m homeless or sleeping rough and I have a mental health problem

If you’re homeless or threatened with homelessness then your local council has to provide you with support to help you stay in your home or find accommodation. This may mean that they have to provide somewhere for you to live, depending on your circumstances.

However, if your council say you are “intentionally homeless” then they may only provide you with support for a short period of time. This might be if:

  • you were evicted because you deliberately didn’t pay the rent
  • you were evicted because you behaved in an antisocial way or harassed your neighbours (or someone who lived with you did, and you did nothing to stop them)
  • you voluntarily left your home when your landlord asked you to leave, rather than being evicted by court proceedings.

Each local council has its own policy for allocating social housing, but most will not allocate council housing to people who have been evicted for rent arrears or antisocial behaviour unless there are exceptional circumstances.

For information on your rights if you are homeless or threatened with homelessness see:

Who is legally considered ‘homeless’ or ‘threatened with homelessness’?

‘Being homeless’ can mean anything from sleeping rough on the streets to sofa-surfing, staying in a hostel, or living in unsuitable accommodation or with a violent partner. Being ‘threatened with homelessness’ means that it’s likely that you will become homeless within 56 days (8 weeks) – for example if you have been given a notice of eviction.

 


This information was published in June 2018 – to be revised in 2020. References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information see our page on permissions and licensing.


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