How can you protect your mental health as a landlord?

For over a year, landlords have faced unprecedented levels of uncertainty and stress. Combine this with new legislation that has caused significant changes in the sector and looking after your mental health becomes even more challenging. It’s no surprise, then, that NRLA research has revealed that 40 per cent of landlords feel the pandemic has had a “negative or very negative” impact on their mental health. 

Having been a landlord for many years, I can honestly say that the last year was, and continues to be, one of the most difficult I have ever faced, I struggled with my personal wellbeing at the start of the pandemic – the sense of the unknown made me question everything that had once seemed so normal and as a landlord myself, I felt worried and concerned over the extraordinary situation we all found ourselves in.” 

– Landlord Action Founder and CCO of Hamilton Fraser, Paul Shamplina

As we approach Mental Health Awareness week, we’re hoping to shine a light on how stress can impact a landlord’s mental health and share information on where they can turn during difficult moments. 

How can you protect your mental health as a landlord?

“As a landlord, there are of course going to be natural concerns about how your tenants are coping. Have they been furloughed? Are they struggling with rental payments? There are many questions wrapped up with your own worries for yourself as a landlord, especially when you’re responsible for maintenance and mortgage payments.”

– Landlord Action Founder and CCO of Hamilton Fraser, Paul Shamplina

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, agrees that “the COVID crisis has placed immense pressure on the sector.” 

“We have seen first-hand through the significant increase in calls to our advice line, that measures have taken their toll on members’ wellbeing.”

– Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA

So what can landlords do to prioritise their mental health? 

 

Take note of stress symptoms 

According to the NHS, ‘stress causes physical changes in the body that are designed to help you take on threats or difficulties.’  Stress can be related to a range of factors but a common feature is that it can often result in a feeling that you are not in control of events within your life.

It’s not difficult to see how this feeling of being unable to control events is likely to be a significant contributor to stress. Symptoms of stress affect how you feel emotionally, physically and mentally and also have an impact on the behaviours you exhibit.

Stress can manifest in a multitude of different ways, including physically through headaches, muscle tension, dizziness, and changes to how you eat and/or sleep. Emotionally you may feel overwhelmed, anxious/fearful and irritable, while mentally you may also experience constant worrying, difficulty making decisions and/or concentrating and racing thoughts.

It’s important to prioritise your mental health in times of great turmoil, and not just to push through and hope for the best. If you are experiencing extreme stress over your current situation, you should seek professional advice from the NHS. You can check out their information on recommended self-help therapies to also try to alleviate your stress.

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Take care of the basics

Eat well and exercise regularly

As a busy landlord, it can be difficult to find time to eat well and regularly, take purposeful breaks and slip in some exercise. But creating a routine that incorporates these will boost your health all-round.

Why not try and walk between properties where possible? Organise your meetings to ensure you have a real lunch break? Simple steps will make a big difference.

Be kind to yourself

While it’s easy to constantly look forward to the next big goal for your buy to let business, it’s also important to accept where you are now. This can also apply to your own personal development.

Taking a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come may help you feel more positive when dealing with the stresses of day to day property management.

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Reach out for help 

Suffering in silence is never a good idea, particularly given the solitary nature of the landlord profession. Having someone there to listen to your problems can make a huge difference. For Paul, this meant talking to his peers and sharing the load.

I continued to pick up the phone to landlords and tenants to help them through situations they were finding challenging, but I can honestly say it helped me too – perhaps more than those on the end of the phone will ever have realised. Everyone can benefit from having someone to share their problems or concerns with, and it is quite likely that you will find other landlords who have also experienced the same trials and tribulations.

– Landlord Action Founder and CCO of Hamilton Fraser, Paul Shamplina

Paul also sought out some landlord property support groups on social media such as All About Property and the UK Landlord Support Group, as well as the LandlordZONE forum. These groups provide a wealth of knowledge and support from like-minded landlords offering practical advice and an understanding ear.  

For landlords who are struggling within the sector and/or need a support network, I would really recommend joining a group such as these as well as seeking out a professional landlord advice line for more specific support, such as the one provided by the NLRA. And obviously, the NHS is also there to help if things begin to escalate.

“As the lockdown begins to ease, we will continue to help members navigate the changes that lie ahead when it comes to managing their homes, members should also keep in mind that our advice team is at hand to support them with issues that may be causing them concern or worry.” 

– Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA

 

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Protect your peace of mind

While the numerous legislative shifts and pandemic panics have had a demonstrable effect on landlords in the last 12 months, let’s not forget that it’s always been a stressful job. There are, however, measures and practical steps you can put in place to mitigate many of these worries and protect your peace of mind.

Adequate landlord insurance cover is an obvious consideration, as regular home insurance is not comprehensive enough for most landlords. It’s only through residential landlord insurance that you’ll be covered in the event of malicious or accident-prone tenants and having this cover in place will certainly help put your mind at ease.

As for preventative measures, meanwhile, thorough tenant referencing is the best way to siphon out any problem tenants. This can be carried out by professional tenant referencing companies such as TenantVERIFY. It is also a good idea to meet the tenant in person if possible to gauge their character. And if all else fails, don’t be afraid to follow your gut if something feels off. 

Of course, pre-COVID, property damage was comfortably the most common cause of landlord stress and is almost certainly something all landlords will have to deal with at some point.

Regular inspections are one way to put your mind at ease and identify problems before they escalate.

In a landscape where social contact is potentially dangerous, this might not be as straightforward as it once was. But as long as you’ve given your tenants ample warning prior to your inspection and take every precaution to keep yourself and them safe, semi-regular checks should actually prove beneficial to the long-term tenant/landlord relationship.

Over the last year, landlords may have found that their tenants are unable to pay rent. A recent Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance quiz found that 76.8 per cent of landlords have allowed flexibility with rent payments during this difficult time.

However, doing so will have placed added financial pressures on their buy to let business, as has the eviction moratorium and following backlog.

If you need to discuss the collection of arrears or are struggling with antisocial behaviour from tenants, try a third-party mediation service like that offered by the Property Redress Scheme.