The Citizens Advice organisation has returned to the attack on the private rental sector, accusing rogue landlords of raking in £5.6 billion a year for unsafe homes that fail to meet legal standards and leaving 740,000 households in England in unhealthy conditions.
Its latest survey, A Nation of Renters - carried out by the New Policy Institute - claims these properties have category 1 hazards - the most serious of problems including severe damp, rat infestations and, apparently, the risk of explosions.
CA claims landlords are receiving £5.6 billion a year on rent for homes with these hazards, which includes £1.3 billion in housing benefit.
The report also shows 16 per cent of privately rented homes are physically unsafe – far higher than the six per cent in the social rented market. Specifically some eight per cent of privately rented homes have serious damp and 10 per cent pose a risk of a dangerous fall. CA says six per cent are excessively cold.
Private renters living in homes with a category 1 hazard pay an average of £157 per week on rent.
“Rogue landlords are putting profits before safety. With a growing private rental sector, increasing numbers – including more than 500,000 children – are falling prey to landlords who fail to meet decent standards. The government has said it wants to tackle the housing crisis. It must make targeting dodgy landlords, giving tenants better rights and driving up standards a major part of that effort" says CA chief executive Gillian Guy.
She says there are now more than a million families raising children in privately rented homes in England - three times higher than it was a decade ago.
CA is now calling for tenants to be entitled to rent refunds where properties are dangerous or not fit to live in, the setting up of a national landlord register as well as local licensing by councils.
In the last year more than 80,000 people came to the charity suffering a problem with a privately rented home.