More than half a million children live in dangerous privately-rented homes, a study from Citizens Advice has revealed.
The A Nation of Renters report, which was carried out with the help of the New Policy Institute think-tank, found that 510,000 children and 180,000 people with disabilities live in privately rented properties that pose a severe risk to their health – defined as homes containing category 1 hazards, such as rat infestations, severe damp and explosion risks.
Overall, 740,000 households live in dangerous rented homes, the study revealed, while in the last 12 months, at least 80,000 people have approached Citizens Advice with a problem that relates to a privately-rented home.
The research found that:
- 16% of homes in the private rented sector are physically unsafe, compared with just 6% in social housing;
- 8% have serious damp;
- 10% pose serious fall risks; and
- 6% are excessively cold.
Nonetheless, tenants in homes with category 1 hazards pay an average of £157 every week on rent, and their landlords receive a total of £5.6 billion every year – £1.3 billion of which comes from taxpayers through Housing Benefit.
Currently, more than one million families are raising children in the private rented sector. This figure is three times higher than it was 10 years ago, and since the price of real estate has risen dramatically in much of the UK, couples with children now represent the most common household type in privately-rented accommodation.
But according to Citizens Advice, people in these households are “woefully under-protected”, and if they wish to seek legal redress from their landlords, they must “navigate through numerous pieces of complex legislation”.
Taking a landlord to court can be a long, expensive and complicated process, and local authorities – which do not have the ability to act quickly – have to deal with a number of landlord-tenant disputes, the charity added.
It recommended that:
- Tenants should be allowed to receive a refund on their rent when a property is not fit for habitation or is otherwise dangerous;
- There should be a national landlord register to ensure that those who operate legally cannot simply move across the country to avoid legal action; and
- Councils should ensure that tenants know what a good landlord should do and ensure that landlords meet the quality of housing and services that the area needs through a local licensing system.
Commenting, Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said that a growing number of people are falling prey to “rogue landlords”, whose homes do not meet decent standards and who put “profit before safety”.
She pointed out that the government has said it wishes to deal with the UK’s housing crisis, but argued that boosting tenants’ rights, raising standards in the private rented sector and responding to “dodgy landlords” should be a part of this.
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