12/02/2021 07:12 GMT

Revealed: Landlords Advised How To Evict Family Members With Mental Health Problems

The article by an award-winning property management firm was condemned as "contemptible" and "stigmatising".

An industry website for landlords has apologised and deleted a “shocking” advice page telling people how to evict their own family members – even if they have mental health problems.

Landlord Vision’s property management software has won three industry awards. Its guide to evicting “feckless” and “entitled freeloaders” was published in May last year, when evictions had been illegal for two months due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Housing and mental health charities have condemned the article, written by Landlord Vision’s head of marketing, while a law centre said renters facing such tactics should seek legal advice.

The company claims to have 2,800 customers while its message board for landlords has nearly 27,000 registered users.

The blog reads: “They might refuse to move out on the agreed-upon date, citing financial issues, mental health issues, or whatever else they think is a reasonable excuse.

“Family members know how to apply emotional leverage. They can make you feel bad for even thinking of tossing them and their belongings out onto the street.”

Renter Jon Patience, who first spotted the page, told HuffPost UK: “I shouldn’t be surprised any more but I still find words like feckless or freeloaders offensive. I think they show the contempt in which some landlords hold renters. It’s no wonder they feel able to treat us badly if they look down on us so much.

“If I spent half my income in any other business they’d treat me like a valued customer. When renters read these sentiments expressed openly it’s offensive but it also adds to the sense of insecurity around being a renter – it’s hard to make your house a home or put down roots if you think your landlord is looking to evict you at the drop of a hat. 

“It’s even more shocking that they’re talking about family members, but I know from personal experience that these things happen: a few years ago we suffered a revenge eviction at the hands of a family member we rented from, and we had to move to a different town a few months before my daughter’s GCSEs when we couldn’t find anything else nearer.”

Landlord Vision writes of a hypothetical scenario where a landlord’s nephew “Wayne” and his girlfriend “Chantelle” move in and cease paying rent.

The writer advises against the use of bailiffs, warning: “This is a highly undesirable outcome, especially given the propensity of some people to film unwelcome events and post them on social media.”

She adds: “You get on the phone to Wayne’s mother, your dearly beloved sister. You try and explain why Wayne and Chantelle can’t stay in your rental property, but she doesn’t want him back.

“‘So sorry about this but poor Wayne is having problems right now. I’m very worried about him and his mental health. You can’t ask him to leave, he might have a breakdown!’”

The National Residential Landlords Association – whose endorsement is proudly displayed on Landlord Vision’s website – told HuffPost UK the private rental sector should operate on the basis of trust and respect between tenants and landlords, and described the language used in the blog as “simply unacceptable”. 

David Stephenson, senior policy and campaigns officer at mental health charity Mind, said: “There is a strong link between social factors – such as debt, employment, benefits and housing – and our mental health.

“Many of us have experienced a worsening in our mental health over the past year, for a whole range of reasons, including loneliness and isolation; concerns over job security and redundancy; juggling working with childcare and home-schooling; and bereavement.

“People with mental health problems are more likely to be evicted from their home, often for financial reasons or disproportionate anti-social behaviour enforcement. Even the threat of eviction can impact significantly on wellbeing, with people living in areas where there are high levels of eviction most affected. 

“The blog makes a number of stigmatising and inaccurate assumptions about renters. There are millions of people who rent privately in the UK, as well as millions who need support from social housing, including many people whose mental health prevent them from earning enough to support themselves.

“Given the aim of this website is to offer legal advice and information to landlords, the language and tone used is completely inappropriate and we would urge those responsible for the copy to reconsider their choice of words. Language use can further fuel stigma and misunderstanding, particularly among some of the most marginalised in society, including those of us with mental health problems.”

The author of the blog herself responded to HuffPost UK’s request for comment. She said: “We’re sorry that this post has caused offence this was not our intent. We have removed the post and have tightened our editorial standards as a result ensuring that our editorial team receives further training and reviews existing blog posts to prevent or remove the use of such language.

“Mental health is important to us and as you will see in many of our other posts we encourage our readers to look after their mental health and not to discriminate against anyone for this reason. We hope that this one post in isolation isn’t allowed to overshadow the good work we do elsewhere.”

The evictions ban expired in September but was extended over Christmas, meaning landlords are only now again able to start legal proceedings to evict tenants.

Kathy Cosgrove, solicitor at Greater Manchester Law Centre, told HuffPost UK: “I’d encourage any tenant or lodger facing such behaviour to get help and advice. We can’t protect people against offensive relatives, but we can protect them against bad landlords.”

She added: “It’s offensive enough being insulted by a landlord with such views, let alone by so-called family. Unfortunately, I’ve come across many ‘free loader’ landlords over the years, happy to take advantage of a relative willing to pay their mortgage and very keen to assert their contractual right to rent, but far less enthusiastic about their own legal obligations such as repairs, asking before entry and refraining from threats and harassment.

“I had one young client who had lived in her uncle’s property for several years, paying rent for a flat without heating or hot water but too scared to complain because, when she did, he would go round and threaten her mum.

“People can easily get trapped into exploitative arrangements, where a landlord offers accommodation as ‘a favour’ for the less ‘deserving’ and reacts aggressively or acts the victim when it is suggested that with rent comes rights.”