Fifth of renters say health harmed by poor housing – Shelter

·3-min read

The health of a fifth of renters in England is being harmed by their homes, research indicates.

Some 22% of renters said their physical or mental health is being harmed by poor housing, according to the charity Shelter.

It commissioned YouGov to carry out the survey of 3,197 renting adults in private or social rented homes in April.

Some 19% said their housing situation was affecting their or their family’s mental health, while 11% said the same for their physical health – working out at 22% overall.

Based on the English Housing Survey, which estimated that there were 8.4 million renting households in England in 2019-20, this equates to around 1.9 million households with their health affected.

The survey found that common issues plaguing renters include damp and mould (affecting 26% of renters), being unable to heat their home (26%), constantly struggling to pay rent (21%) and fear of eviction (21%).

Renters experiencing one of these issues were three times more likely than renters without such issues to say their housing situation was harming their health.

A separate poll for Shelter, of private renters only, found that 22% said their housing issues or worries had made them physically sick.

A further fifth said these issues had negatively affected their performance at work.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “The cost of poor housing is spilling out into overwhelmed GP surgeries, mental health services, and hours lost from work.

“The new Housing Secretary must get a grip on the housing crisis and tackle a major cause of ill health.

“Listening to the calls flooding into our helpline there is no doubt that health and housing go hand in hand.

“Yet, millions of renters are living in homes that make them sick because they are mouldy, cold, unaffordable and grossly insecure.

“The stress and suffering that comes with not knowing if you can pay your rent from month to month or if you will face eviction is huge.”

She said the Government can ease pressure by helping renters clear arrears through targeted grants, and through private rental reforms, but that ultimately more social homes must be built.

Vicki Nash, head of policy, campaigns and public affairs at Mind, said: “Everyone deserves a safe, affordable, stable, and suitable place to live, not somewhere which makes us feel ‘hopeless’, and worsens our mental health.

“Social issues such as jobs, housing and benefits play a huge role in the nation’s mental health.

“Addressing the underlying causes of poor mental health can prevent people being pushed into poverty, allow people to live independently, and reduce the need for more intensive support further down the line.”

A spokesman for the National Residential Landlords Association said: “Official data has consistently shown that a higher proportion of private renters are satisfied with their accommodation than those in the social rented sector. We want to see this continue.

“That said, no tenant should ever have to put up with unsafe or unhealthy accommodation.

“Where this is happening, local authorities need to use the vast array of powers already available to tackle landlords who fail to provide fit and proper housing.

“That is why improved enforcement against such landlords is at the heart of our plans to reform the private rented sector.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “Everybody deserves to live in a decent and safe home – that’s why we’re cracking down on rogue landlords who rent out unsafe accommodation and have given councils robust enforcement tools, including fines of up to £30,000 and banning orders.

“The new Secretary of State is clear that we must go further and our reforms of the rental sector will deliver a fairer system for all.”

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