Activist group Generation Rent is demanding that the government tighten regulations on damp and mould - and is tying this to the call to scrap Section 21.
The group claims that local councils in England found 1,106 private rented homes with dangerous levels of damp and mould in 2021-22, and then adds that the threat of a Section 21 eviction nice can discourage tenants from complaining about such problems.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, Generation Rent asked 115 councils in England about their enforcement of housing standards, including mould and damp and other severe Category 1 hazards. A Category 1 hazard poses a serious and immediate risk to a person's health and safety.
The 65 councils which reported a breakdown of complaints had received 60,849 complaints about standards in rented housing, including 8,048 complaints about damp and mould.
The councils with the highest rate of complaints relating to damp and mould were Wolverhampton (69 per cent of all complaints), Salford (60 per cent) and Swindon (50 per cent).
The 69 councils which reported a breakdown of hazards had found 7,695 Category 1 hazards in private rented homes, including 1,106 cases of damp and mould.
Councils where damp and mould was the largest type of hazard were Bath (70 per cent of hazards found), and the London Boroughs of Greenwich (58 per cent) and Brent (44 per cent).
Generation Rent claims that while 81 councils identified a total of 9,033 Category 1 hazards, they issued just 2,179 improvement notices. The activists says this means “private tenants had a 24 per cent chance of getting formal protection if their home was found to be unsafe to live in.”
The government has committed to abolishing Section 21 and requiring landlords who wish to evict to provide legitimate grounds for eviction. Landlords will also have to join a new ombudsman and meet a Decent Homes Standard. Ministers have promised the Renters Reform Bill when parliamentary time allows.
Generation Rent is calling on the government to go further by extending the so-called Awaab’s Law - currently to apply only to social housing - to the private sector too.
Baroness Alicia Kennedy, the outgoing director of Generation Rent, says: “Too many renters are living in homes with dangerous levels of damp and mould, which can cause respiratory diseases and damage personal possessions. The government needs to take the issue of mould and damp in privately rented homes far more seriously.
“Landlords, whether they are huge housing associations, or an individual letting out their former home, have one job: to provide their tenants with a safe home. Too many try to dodge their responsibilities by blaming tenants or serving a no-fault eviction notice.
“Without action to protect tenants in their homes and hold landlords in both sectors accountable for the safety of their properties, thousands of people will continue to live in homes that are making them ill.”
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