Housing and mental health
Explains how housing and mental health can affect each other. Provides tips for coping and where to find support, and information on your legal rights.
What are my housing rights?
This page gives an overview of your rights as someone with a mental health problem in the following situations:
- The condition of the property I rent is making my mental health problem worse
- I’m facing eviction because of issues relating to my mental health problem
- People want to enter my home without my permission because of my mental health problem
- I need specialist accommodation because of my mental health problem
- I’m about to be discharged from hospital and I have nowhere to live
- I’m homeless or sleeping rough and I have a mental health problem
Our legal pages on disability discrimination also have more information.
(Please note: the legal information on this page only applies to adults living in England and Wales.)
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). Visit Shelter's page on common health hazards, and how risks to your health and safety should be assessed.
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.
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.
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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Make a formal complaint, if your landlord is a council or housing association. Visit Shelter's information on making a formal complaint to find out more. If you’re not happy with their response, Shelter also information about:
- 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 legal aid for more information.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
This information was published in June 2018.
This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published.
References and bibliography available on request.
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