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Renting families’ health at risk due to unsafe homes

More than 120,000 renting families – the equivalent to 1 in 10 – have suffered health problems in the last year because rogue landlords failed to deal with poor conditions in their properties, new research shows.

The YouGov survey of over 4500 private renters, commissioned by Shelter and British Gas, revealed that poor conditions were commonplace for renting families. Almost half said they had lived in a property with damp (44%) or mould (48%) in the past year, which can cause health conditions such as asthma and eczema. Nearly a fifth had electrical hazards (19%), and one in six families (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 is releasing 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 private renting. Previous research released by Shelter found that 213,000 people across England said they had faced eviction for complaining about conditions in their home.

Tina Osborne lives with her four children in London. Her landlord evicted them after she complained about electrical hazards and poor conditions in her home.

“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.”

On 28th November, 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.

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