Renters face appalling living conditions. New figures show that one in eight privately rented homes poses a potentially life-threatening health hazard.
Around 615,000 properties last year had serious defects such as moisture, mould, pollutants, construction defects and the risk of fire that endangered the health of residents, an increase of 50,000 compared to the previous year.
Activists said the figures reveal the increasingly dire conditions renters face despite rising rents – and accused “slum” landlords of exploitation and “profiteing from unsafe homes”.
The shocking statistics come from a number of studies The Independent revealed the impact of the worsening UK housing crisis, including black and Asian renters who have been forced to bear the brunt of dire conditions – from decay to evictions – and a “shameful” shortage of social housing as more than half of the local authorities could not build a single community center last year.
It follows the death of toddler Awaab Ishak, which was proven to be caused by “widespread mold” at his family’s Rochdale home. His death sparked outrage at the fact that property owners’ families were being left in unlivable conditions.
Labor has vowed to end the ‘shocking’ and ‘unacceptable’ conditions renters are suffering – and accuses the Tory government of failing to control landlords in the ‘wild west’ private sector.
Category 1 hazards – regarded as the most serious and potentially leading to death or loss of limb – are found in 14 per cent of private rented accommodation, according to the latest Labor analysis English housing surveycovering the years 2021 to 2022. This value has increased from 13 percent in the previous year.
Around 990,000 privately rented dwellings (23 percent) do not meet the “standard for decent housing” according to the data for 2021-22 – a higher proportion than in the social rental sector (10 percent) and for condominiums (13). Percent).
And around 11 percent of privately rented homes have moisture, according to analysis of the latest annual figures — up from 10 percent last year and a significant increase from 7 percent in 2019-20.
“The private rental housing sector is increasingly resembling the Wild West,” said Lisa Nandy, the secretary of shadow housing The Independent. “Far too many young people and families are forced to live in shocking, unacceptable conditions while always paying inflated rents.”
Ms Nandy pledged that a Labor government would introduce an “effective” new tenants’ charter to enforce the standard for decent housing in the private rental sector and that it would also introduce a new code of conduct for brokers to crack down on their issue.
Figures obtained separately from The Independent indicate that mold and moisture problems are getting worse. The number of complaints to the Housing Ombudsman on these issues has increased by 35 percent.
The regulator received 5,398 complaints about dampness, mold and leaks last year, up from 3,530 a year earlier. A total of 632 complaints were upheld, compared to 456 in the previous year.
Earlier this year, Housing Secretary Michael Gove called the death of two-year-old Awaab an “unacceptable tragedy” – and vowed to ensure landlords are “held accountable” for unsuitable homes.
In May, The Independent revealed a four-year-old girl, Zainab Hamid, had been hospitalized after living in a moldy apartment. According to our inquiries, she and her family have been relocated from the Westminster flat run by the social landlord Peabody Trust.
Tenants told The Independent about serious health risks to which they were exposed by private landlords. Sinthia Arefin was hospitalized in November 2018 after the ceiling collapsed on her in the kitchen of a flat that Newham Council had rented from a private landlord as temporary accommodation.
Ms Arefin said her life has changed irrevocably since the accident. She is still suffering from the effects of her injuries and has not been able to continue her work as an artist.
“The kitchen ceiling was damp due to a water leak in the room above and the landlord didn’t fix it,” she said. “The ceiling fell on my head. I was taken to the hospital by ambulance.”
Ms Arefin said: “I had an injury to my neck disc. I was bedridden for several months and still walk with a cane. I still have severe back pain, extreme headaches and dizziness from falling on me like that.”
She added, “It can change someone’s life in ways that they never thought of in their worst nightmares.”
Liam Miller, of the London Renters Union, said the recent rent increases are “shocking” given how difficult it is for renters to get landlords to make repairs. “The exploitation of tenants and the abandonment of their homes in desperation is common – the term ‘slum landlord’ is appropriate in too many places.”
The activist said the government must give municipalities the tools to crack down on bad landlords and allow tougher penalties if landlords don’t follow the rules.
Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of campaign organization Generation Rent, said the worst slum landlords are “leaving people in unsafe homes” while making rents increasingly unaffordable.
“Some landlords make a profit by raising prices while ignoring their tenants’ complaints about problems and poor conditions,” the activist said. “It can be very difficult to get landlords to fix things.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said renters “should not be forced to live in houses where there are risks that pose a real danger to them”.
Activists hope the Renters’ Reform Bill – the law currently being passed in Parliament banning no-fault evictions – will allow renters to crack down on slum landlords without losing their homes.
The latest figures show how important change can be. No-fault eviction court cases in England have reached their highest level in six years. Almost 7,500 no-fault eviction notices were filed before judges between April and June — 35 percent more than in the same period last year.
Labor and housing activists remain frustrated that the Tories have failed to include a standard of adequate housing for the private rented sector in the Renters Reform Act – despite the Government pledging to introduce one “as soon as possible”.
No.10 has also promised to launch a consultation on a new dampness and mold standard as part of the broader review of the Decent Homes Standard.
A spokesman for the Department for Leveling, Housing and Communities said: “Everyone deserves a decent home that is free of moisture, mold and overcrowding.”
They added: “That’s why we are committed to reducing and phasing in the number of substandard rental housing by 50 percent by 2030.” [a] We offer the private rental sector a decent standard of housing that will protect millions of renters for the first time.”
A spokesman for Newham Council said the council is keen to improve standards in all accommodation, adding: “We have a robust policy outlining what we expect from landlords of private sector temporary accommodation.”