MPs inquiry finds 'homes unfit for humans' following ITV News investigation

The inquiry found tenants had been badly let down across the board, with change desperately needed, reports Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt

An inquiry by MPs triggered by an ITV News investigation has found the deterioration of social housing has left some unfit for human habitation, as landlords are told to significantly “up their game.”

In a scathing report, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities committee found “it is undeniable that tenants… face poor treatment from providers who discriminate and stigmatise people because they are social housing tenants.”

Chair of the Committee Clive Betts thanked ITV News for its investigation into the social housing sector, which he said had forced MPs to launch their own inquiry. 

Clive Betts sat down with ITV News' Daniel Hewitt on how the inquiry has unearthed 'failures at every point'

“The current debate about the quality of social housing in England began after survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 accused their housing provider of marginalising and belittling residents and repeatedly ignoring their concerns about the building’s safety,” the report states.

“More recently, a series of media reports, particularly from ITV News, has revealed appalling levels of disrepair in some social housing, including serious damp and mould.

“We also note with concern the extremely serious impact on the mental and physical health of those affected. Whatever the precise extent and causes of housing disrepair, we call on everyone in and connected to the sector to prioritise above all else the quality of housing being provided to existing tenants.”

MPs found too many (social landlords) are guilty of: 

• not responding quickly enough to requests for repairs or investigating the structural causes of disrepair;

• preferring quick fixes over proper remediation work; relying too heavily on tenants to report problems, rather than proactively monitoring the condition of their stock.

They said there is “a lack of respect for tenants arising from a stigma attached to being a social housing tenant” , a “power imbalance between providers and tenants” and that some providers had strayed from their “social mission” through commercialisation.

The inquiry also laid blame at the door of the government for failing to provide proper regulation of the sector, failing to build enough affordable homes or provide enough money to councils and housing associations to deal with old, decaying stock.

The inquiry recommends housing providers be required to support the establishment of genuinely independent and representative tenant and resident associations, and calls on the government to establish a national tenant voice body to drive up standards in social housing.

The report makes a series of recommendations in relation to the Housing Ombudsman with more public awareness of how tenants can complain.

It recommends the government empower the ombudsman to order providers to award compensation of up to £25,000.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesman said: “We’re taking action to improve social housing through our new Bill. This will give the regulator and Housing Ombudsman more powers, including unlimited fines from the regulator for landlords who fail tenants.

“The biggest suppliers will also be regularly inspected and complaints dealt with quickly and fairly, meaning more people will live in decent and well looked after homes.”

Currently, the Housing Ombudsman already has powers to order landlords to pay compensation to social housing residents. 

The value of the compensation is calculated based on what is fair in the circumstances of that particular case and there is no limit to the amount of compensation that can be awarded