Families face health crisis as private landlords fail to carry out repairs

More than 120,000 families in England's private rented sector (PRS) have suffered health problems in the last year as a consequence of landlords failing to deal with poor conditions in their homes, new research has revealed.

Commissioned by housing charity Shelter and British Gas, the YouGov survey of over 4,500 PRS tenants found that almost half had lived in a property with damp (44%) or mould (48%) in the past year - issues that can cause health conditions such as asthma and eczema.

And nearly a fifth (19%) of families had suffered electrical hazards in their homes, while one in six (18%) reported living with animal infestations including mice, ants and cockroaches.

The study also revealed that over 60,000 families were threatened with eviction by their landlord simply for complaining about the conditions in their home in the last year.

Shelter has released the figures as part of its campaign to change the law to protect renters from ‘revenge evictions’ by a "small but dangerous minority of rogue landlords".

The charity is warning that the problem is becoming ever more concerning as the housing shortage forces more people into the PRS.

Previous research released by Shelter found that 213,000 people across England said they had faced eviction for complaining about conditions in their home.

PRS tenant Tina Osborne, who lives with her four children in London, was evicted by her landlord after she complained about electrical hazards and poor conditions in her home.

She said: “When we first moved in, the house seemed perfect and we were thrilled, but soon enough I realized that all of the problems had just been painted over.

“The damp is so bad that mushrooms are now growing out of the walls, and a ceiling collapsed in my daughter’s bedroom. The worst was when my young son spilt a drink that went through the floorboards and caused huge electrical explosions because of exposed wiring.

“All I asked was for the landlord to fix the problems so that I wouldn’t have to uproot my children’s lives. Instead, they would rather throw us out and rent the house to another unassuming family. This just shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, said: "No family should have to live in a home that puts their health and well-being at risk, let alone face eviction just for asking their landlord to fix a problem.

"Yet every day, we hear from parents up and down the country living in fear that damp or gas and electrical hazards are putting their children in danger, but feeling powerless to do anything about it. This has to stop.

"With a bill to end revenge evictions going through parliament next month, we now have a real chance to change the law and protect renting families. We're calling on people across the country to email their MPs and ask them to vote to end this unfair practice once and for all."

British Gas engineer Ben Whitehouse said: “As a British Gas engineer I visit hundreds of homes a year, many of which are rented properties. Most landlords take their responsibilities seriously and take simple steps to make homes safe, like ensuring that appliances are correctly installed and regularly serviced, and by installing audible carbon monoxide alarms.

"It’s important that tenants have the confidence to complain to their landlords about potentially dangerous conditions, especially when gas and electrical safety is so vital and easy to get right.”

Next month, politicians will have the chance to vote on a bill which has cross-party support to protect renters from unfair evictions.

Shelter, supported by British Gas, is calling on people across the country to email their MP, asking them to be present in parliament to vote to end revenge evictions for good.