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Private rentals still more likely to fail standard

Katie Coyne08/03/2017 - 16:34

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Rental market has the worst standards
Rental market has the worst standards

The private rented sector has the highest proportion of ‘non-decent’ homes out of English housing stock and is more likely to experience damp and mould.

This is according to the DCLG English Housing Survey, which also found that the private rental sector is also less likely to have central heating.

The English Housing Survey 2014-15 found that the private rented sector had 29 per cent of non-decent homes, compared to 14 per cent in the social rented sector and 19 per cent of owner occupied homes. 

A ‘decent home’ is a government statutory minimum standard, providing a reasonable degree of thermal comfort, is in a reasonable state of repair and has reasonably modern facilities.

The survey also found that owner occupied homes were less likely to suffer from damp problems. Just 3 per cent of these homes were affected by damp, while 5 per cent of the social sector and 9 per cent of private rented dwellings were affected.

CIEH vice president and environmental health and housing consultant, Dr Stephen Battersby, argued that local authorities need to use new powers to issue improvement notices and civil penalties. 

Dr Battersby said there was a culture of ‘negotiating’ with landlords before issuing notices but suggested that local authorities could issue a notice and then negotiate – revoking a notice if necessary. This would save months of inaction.  

He said: ‘We need to put the resources into tackling the worst end of the private rented sector affecting people who are less able to get their landlords to deal with anything and on the lowest income – which all increase health inequalities.’

While comparing figures from previous years it looks as if the number of non-decent homes are reducing. In 2009 the same survey found 30 per cent of the housing stock failed to meet the decent homes standard with 41 per cent of the private rented sector falling into this category.

However, Dr Battersby argued while, ‘the percentage of non-decent stock in the private rental sector has reduced, when you look at the numbers it actually hasn’t changed significantly.

‘The size of the private rental sector has grown. There is a residue of decent homes going into the private rental sector.’

Meanwhile, the Local Government Association has called for a reversal of the ‘long-term and continuing decline in council housing.’ Cllr Judith Blake, LGA Housing spokesperson added: ‘Only an increase of all types of housing – including those for affordable or social rent – will solve the housing crisis.’

The social sector was more energy efficient than the private sector due to wider use of wall insulation but also due to the fact that many more homes in this section are flats. The survey noted that this type of dwelling has less exposed surface area through which heat can be lost, making them inherently more energy efficient than detached or semi-detached houses.

Since 1996 the proportion of homes with central heating has increased from 80 per cent to 92 per cent. The proportion of homes with room heaters as their main heat source also decreased from 12 per cent to 3 per cent over the same period. 

But within this, the private sector still had the lowest proportion of homes with central heating at 85per cent, followed by housing association stock at 88 per cent. Owner occupied homes had the highest number of homes with central heating at 94 per cent followed by local authority homes at 93 per cent.

The report also looked at the type of boiler within a home. It found that older, less energy efficient boilers were found more frequently in the private sector. The social rented sector also had a higher proportion of solid walls with insulation at 29 per cent than owner occupied at 6 per cent or the private rented sector at 6 per cent.

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