Fifth of renters report poor housing is harming their health

Mould can cause respiratory problems.
One of the many homes, plagued by damp, that ITV News has filmed in during our housing investigation. Credit: ITV News

Around 1.9 million households (22% of renters) in England have said their physical or mental health is being harmed by poor housing, research by the charity Shelter has shown.

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 those without such issues to say their housing situation was harming their health.

Shelter 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.

Mould, damp, cold conditions in houses are causing renters health problems. Credit: PA

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.

“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. “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 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”.