Mental health in the property industry – why a lot more still needs to be done

Despite steps in the right direction, the property industry needs to do more to recognise and support those with mental health issues.

By having a firm understanding of the potential situations that could increase the chances of someone’s mental health worsening, we can help to prevent these from happening at all – or nip potential issues in the bud.

As we said above, positive steps in the right direction have been made in recent years, but it’s still the case that working patterns and practices can be improved to help overcome a problem that is threatening to become an epidemic in its own right. 

What are the industry factors impacting mental health?

We know that the property industry does more hours than most and this can have a damaging impact on many people’s work and life balance. To counter this, better support systems in place can help avoid a mental health crisis, something which has been worsened during the pandemic with such a hugely busy market.

Implementing training in specific areas such as time management can help people better manage these obstacles and keep stress levels low. In turn, this will allow people in the industry to learn how to prioritise their workload in a way that does not seep into their personal lives or make their job stressful.

In the property industry, landlords and letting agents often only get one chance to get their job right, while they also have a responsibility to keep tenants safe and happy, which makes it high pressure compared to other industries.

At the same time, we must remember that landlords and agents are not the only ones prone to experiencing mental health issues, tenants are as well.

Very often, renters have large sums of money at play (especially with deposits) that have taken years to accumulate. They also might feel their housing position is unstable from time to time, particularly if they have a change in circumstances.

Consequently, strong emotional responses from tenants could be a factor from time to time. These can sometimes also be dangerous, if you have especially aggressive tenants – although, fortunately, this is rare.

However, proper structures within individual businesses should be put in place, and companies that endorse high levels of professionalism should only be used.

What’s more, speaking to people regularly and asking if they need support is necessary to prevent any low-level issues from spiralling out of control and causing long-term mental health problems.

Finding time to see the team in person and arranging social events are ways of combatting this, to bring up morale, ensure everyone is working well together and get an idea of any problems that could be dealt with before they escalate.

An issue worsened by the pandemic

Back in 2017, mental health charity Mind reported that one in six people in England experiences a mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) during a typical week. Since then, the pandemic has occurred and sparked an increase in people dealing with these issues. Now, to add to that, we have global instability thanks to the war in Ukraine and the domestic cost-of-living crisis.

Inventory clerks typically work alone, sometimes in uncomfortable conditions, for example carrying out work in a property that is dark or in a desolate place. The pandemic has heightened this as inventory clerks have been working throughout lockdown and beyond, with their work deemed to be essential to the continued smooth running of the lettings sector.

We also need to consider the heightened levels of fear that female inventory clerks could potentially experience, due to horrific cases in the past, most notably Suzy Lamplugh, where women who work in the property industry have gone missing or been killed simply while doing their job.

With all the above in mind, being open about mental health and understanding how to deal with issues surrounding this is necessary to move the whole industry forward. Charities such as Agents Together have done a superb job of highlighting the issues and offering support, but we still need to go further.

At the AIIC, we understand the issues that could happen to make mental health problems worse. To counter this, we have ongoing development and member support, and aim to make the rental experience better for workers as well as tenants, landlords and agents.

More information regarding the AIIC and courses dedicated to established and inexperienced inventory professionals can be found online here

Published on 24/03/2022