Councils are being urged to do more to crack down on rogue landlords who are leaving thousands of tenants living in hazardous condition that are likely to cause harm, according to the shadow housing minister.
Speaking during a visit to Walsall at the end of last week, Labour’s John Healey warned that some tenants were being forced to live in rented housing so squalid that it is likely to leave tenants requiring medical attention.
Government figures suggest as many as 2.4 million people in England live in rented homes, both in the private and social sectors, with category 1 hazards.
The worst affected regions are the east and west Midlands, which features large numbers of Victorian homes, where about a quarter of a million rental properties suffer from category 1 hazards, according to the figures compiled by Labour based on the English Housing Survey.
These hazards include exposed wiring or overloaded electrical sockets, dangerous or broken boilers, very cold bedrooms, leaking roofs, mould, vermin, broken stairs, among other issues, according to Labour.
Healey said: “It is a major problem everywhere, but the West Midlands has a bigger problem than most other places when it comes to private rented homes that are not up to scratch.
“There are too many tenants who just can't get their landlords to do what they should. In fact, one in four private rented homes don't even qualify as being fit for human habitation.
“I'm talking about properties with faulty electrical wiring that can cause a fire, condensation or damp, they've got vermin infestations. All of these things can be hazardous to health and to life.
“Labour is leading legislation that we have now got the Government to back, to give tenants the legal right to take their landlord to court if they don't make necessary improvements.
“But in the meantime, people need a council like Walsall to step in and lean on landlords that aren't doing the job.”
During his visit, Healey praised Walsall Council’s new plans for a licensing scheme for private landlords in the town.
Healey added: “All credit to the council for putting this in place. It shouldn't be needed, but it is, and if that is what it takes to get some private landlords to pull their fingers out then it must be a good thing.
“Without a clampdown on the worst landlords, people are at the mercy of living in conditions that no one should have to put up with.”