Housing

Some renters are put off asking their landlords for repairs out of fear of rent increases

One in 10 renters fear consequences if they complain to their landlord, citing worries over rent increases and being branded a bad tenant

renters are living with damp and mould and other issues

Private rented homes are currently not subject to the Decent Homes Standard, leaving tenants at risk of living in damp and mouldy homes. The Renters Reform Bill is set to extend it to the sector. Image: carlpenergy / Flickr

Two-thirds of private renters across England have experienced a problem with the quality or condition of their home in the last six months – with one in 10 worried about what might happen if they speak out.

The survey of 2,000 private renters, carried out by the TDS (Tenancy Deposit Scheme) Foundation, revealed 60% of tenants encountered one or more problems with their homes.

The top five problems experienced included leaks or plumbing problems, which more than a fifth of tenants reported. Difficulties with keeping homes warm (20%), repairs not being carried out (18%), serious problems with damp or mould (16%) outside doors, walls, roofs or windows being in need of repair (16%) followed.

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Of the people who found issues with their property, 85% said they had reported the problem to their landlord or letting agent but 78% said it had been either fully or partially addressed. 

Around a third of the renters who didn’t report an issue said it was down to the ineffectiveness of reporting the issue while a quarter cited the hassle of putting a complaint in. Around a fifth of tenants stayed quiet because they feared not being seen as a good tenant or facing a rent increase as a result.

“While a large proportion of tenants are experiencing problems with the condition of their property, they are being addressed by landlords in a majority of cases when they are reported,” said Dr Jennifer Harris, head of policy and research at TDS Group, which works to advance education about housing rights and obligations in the private rented sector.

“That said, it is worrying that over one in 10 tenants who had problems with their homes did not feel confident reporting it.

“The government’s plans to reform the rental market, including developing a Decent Homes Standard (DHS) for private rented housing, need to ensure tenants feel confident to speak out where their homes meet all required standards.”

The Renters Reform Bill is due to enter its report stage in the House of Commons this month as it continues its slow progress through parliament. The bill is due to introduce the DHS to the private rented sector. 

There are currently no minimum legal requirements for housing standards in the private rented sector despite ministers promising to extend the DHS to cover private tenancies three years ago.

MPs from the Health and Social Care Committee called on the government to extend the DHS at pace while also bringing in Awaab’s Law, which is protecting social tenants from horror homes.

The government is also consulting on new legislation to force social landlords to carry out emergency repairs within 24 hours or face court action.

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Conor O’Shea, policy and public affairs manager at Generation Rent, said: “Damp and mouldy homes are dangerous to our health and can even kill. Awaab’s Law was rightly brought into social housing last year, giving tenants the security of knowing that action must be taken in a certain timeframe when it is found. The UK’s private tenants however are offered no such protection.

“Awaab’s Law must be extended to cover private homes as soon as possible. Issues of damp, mould, fuel poverty and poor insulation are worse in private homes than any other tenure type. Not giving landlords fixed deadlines to deal with potentially deadly issues leaves private tenants the most exposed and least protected.

“We urge the government to correct this to stop people from falling ill and dying in their homes. There is also more they can do. Introducing a higher minimum energy efficiency standard to private rented homes – which was ditched in the autumn – would lead to warmer, dryer homes, stopping mould developing in the first place.”

Responding to the Health and Social Care Committee, a government spokesperson said: “We are introducing a Decent Homes Standard to the private rented for the first time, and creating a new ombudsman to resolve issues quicker and empower tenants to challenge poor practice.”

Have you had a problem with your rented home? Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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