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Mental health and property management

10 July 2018

According to the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health disorder at some point during their lifetime.

This means it's highly likely most property managers will manage a tenancy involving people affected by mental illness.
This important issue was the focus of a recent REINSW webinar: Mental health and property management featuring Julie Dardel from Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, Guy Dayhew of Northern NSW Local Health District and Gary Shallala-Hudson from Far North Coast Ability Links and Social Futures. 

The panel of experts discussed strategies to help property managers sustain and support difficult tenancies.

What is the difference between mental health, mental illness and mental disorder?


Mental health is a state of wellbeing in which you can recognise your own potential to cope with normal stresses of life, work productively and contribute to your community.

Mental illness is a condition that seriously impairs your mental functioning, temporarily or permanently. People with mental illness may suffer from delusions, hallucinations, mood disturbance and irrational behaviour. Mental disorder is a temporary disturbance of behaviour and can affect people with no history of mental illness.

Indications of mental illness 


There are many types of anxiety and mood disorders, each with unique symptoms and manifestations. However, property managers should be aware of:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder, including hoarding
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder

“If someone is struggling with their illness, it may have an impact on their ability to engage in paid work or they may need to take some sick days," said Dardel. "Property managers may recognise a change in behaviour or in the pattern of rental payments.

"There could also be concerns from neighbours. Any time something appears out of the ordinary, that’s when a property manager should consider reaching out to the tenant.”

Managing mental illness through tenancies

The impact mental illness has on a tenancy is highly dependent on how it is managed by the property manager. Building strong relationships with tenants leads to long-term benefits and establishes trust for when times are tough. 

“Because I got along with my real estate agent so well after disclosing my illness during the tenancy, I ended up staying in that property for many years,” said Shallala-Hudson, who has experience in renting properties while living with depression.

“What we’re looking at is the role of property managers in working with a person with a mental illness to help them survive, manage and thrive within the rental agreement,” said Dayhew. “Changing tenancies is expensive. So investing in someone by assisting them day-to-day can certainly go a long way in terms of your business model.” 
“People go through episodes of being well and unwell," added Dardel. "A tenancy may have been perfectly fine for a long period of time. But when someone is going through a critical episode of their illness, they may need extra support to ensure the tenancy can continue.”

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