Study shows extent of illness and injury across UK rental sector

Half of respondents to new tenant survey say they’ve been injured or made ill by their home.

With the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act taking effect from tomorrow (20th March), almost half of respondents to a new tenant survey say they’ve been injured or suffered illness due to the condition of their home.

The study, conducted on behalf of London property maintenance experts Aspect, showed some 44% of people who are currently renting or have rented a home in the UK in the past say the condition of their home has caused them illness or injury.

Respiratory problems arising from mould and damp, allergies linked to environmental irritants and illness related to poor heating were among the most common complaints.

One in five (19.4%) told the study that the condition of their home had caused them stress or anxiety.

London had the most property-related injuries and health problems, but as a proportion of residents, Birmingham came out as the UK’s capital of poor rental health at 58% followed by Swansea (57%), Plymouth (56.5%), Leeds (55%) and London (53%).

Chelmsford seemed to be one of the safest places to rent with the least injury or illness at just 14%  followed by Oxford (30%), Liverpool and Manchester (31%) and Aberdeen (33%).

Nick Bizley, commercial director at Aspect, said: “It’s alarming but not surprising that so many UK tenants are reporting health problems directly related to the condition of their home.

“From first-hand experience, the age imbalance of those suffering ill-health and injury due to the condition of their home can be directly related to the younger age group not being confident enough to bring maintenance issues up with their landlord.

As well as illnesses, the study shows badly maintained rental properties causing injuries including cuts and scrapes from sharp edges and poorly-fitted fixtures, injuries from trips or falls caused by loose carpets or steps, electric shocks from landlord-supplied appliances, puncture wounds, burns and carbon monoxide related illness that they directly attribute to the condition of their home.

Tenants have also outlined becoming ill due to their cold environment and poor heating (14%),  while one in ten admitted they had respiratory problems from mould and damp and the same amount reported allergies to fleas, dust mites and bed bugs.

Some respondents told researchers that they had suffered from bacterial problems such as legionnaires disease due to the poor condition of their home, while others had been stressed out and lost sleep due to vermin being present in their living space.

The health problems identified disproportionately affect the young, with the survey showing 24% more likely to experience illness and injury related to a rental property compared to the national average.

Some 58% of 18-24 year-olds, 56% of 25-34 year-olds and 54% of 35-44 year-olds have experienced an illness or injury due to the condition of their rented home, which is significantly higher than the 39% of 45-54 year-old renters and 27% of over-55s who reported the same.

“Our tradespeople regularly see and report examples of corner-cutting on maintenance, especially where properties have been converted into homes of multiple occupancy, such as a large houses converted into flats, but also at the higher end of the property market, too,” said Bizley.

“Our people also regularly see poorly ventilated homes as a direct result of landlords converting large properties into flats without allowing for sufficient ventilation in each subsequent property – this leads to damp, which causes mould, which is proven to have a detrimental impact on health,” he said.

Aspect tradespeople have also reported non-isolated gas lines where the entire gas supply was located in the ground floor flat in a block of four and landlord-supplied appliances that haven’t been PAT tested.

“I think landlords can be ignorant of their obligations, so we hope this new legislation will clarify those obligations to ensure homes are fit for habitation and lead to a general improvement for living conditions across the rental sector,”  said Bizley.

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