Private housing tenants from across income scales are living in unsafe homes that fail to meet basic legal standards, a report from Citizens Advice claims.
The charity says rogue landlords are making billions of pounds from 700,000 private rented homes in England with a category 1 hazard, the worst kind of problems, which can include rat infestations, unsafe electrics, cold and damp.
The report Paying a High Price for a Faulty Product shows 30% of households living in unsafe privately rented homes have an annual income of more than £30,000, with 18% earning more than £40,000 a year.
Citizens Advice says private renters desperately need to be given protections that exist in other consumer areas and has been campaigning for tenants in unsafe accommodation to have the right to rent refunds. The charity is pleased this has been included in the Housing Bill currently going through Parliament –but it insists tenants must not have to pay court fees to pursue this action.
Despite private rented accommodation costing the most, the sector is most likely to have category 1 hazards – 17% compared to 12% of owner-occupied homes and 6% of social rented homes.
The report, produced with New Policy Institute, shows:
- There are more than 100,000 households who pay more than £900 per month to live in an unsafe private home.
- The average monthly rent for an unsafe home in the private sector is £650, not much lower than the average overall cost of £720 for a home that meets minimum standards.
- Just 210,000 of the households in unsafe privately rented homes have no one in work or are of pension age.
- Private renters in England spend £4.2 billion a year to live in unsafe homes that fail to meet legal standards.
- Half a million children live in unsafe privately rented homes.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Rogue landlords are forcing private tenants into a living nightmare.
“The private rented sector is the most expensive housing tenure but is in the worst state – consumers are paying top dollar to stay in dire homes that can threaten their lives and risk their health.
“For too long the private rented sector has been seen as a side issue in the British housing crisis debate. This is utterly wrong as the astronomical cost of buying property means increasing numbers of people and families are moving into private tenancies.
“It is good the Housing Bill includes plans to give tenants the rights to rent refunds when their homes are unsafe – but it’s imperative renters don’t have to stump up court fees to seek this justice.”