Hundreds of thousands of young tenants are living in dangerous conditions which could harm their health, analysis of government statistics has shown. It is estimated that about 338,000 properties being rented by tenants under 35 years of age is affected. Problems such as rats, dangerous electrical wiring, leaky roofs and mouldy walls are among the conditions they are having to live with. Many of these conditions are either dangerous or harmful to health. With the housing shortage set to worsen and rents rising and putting more good housing stock out of reach, it is estimated that more than 500,000 people will start their adult lives being forced to live in substandard conditions.

Director of campaign group Generation Rent, Dan Wilson Craw, said renting properties from a private landlord is the only option for many young adults. However, he said they should expect a decent standard of living for what they have to pay. Cash-strapped councils do not have the resources to enforce housing regulations, which mean tenants are stuck with unsuitable and unsafe housing. There is a private member’s bill being debated in parliament which would mean tenants could take direct legal action against landlords and agents instead of having to rely on their local council.

According to government figures, there could be about 756,000 households in privately-rented homes with category 1 hazards and 244,000 living in social housing. The Labour Party has compiled figures from the English Housing Survey which show the worst affected are tenants in the east and west Midlands. It is estimated about 250,000 rental properties there have category 1 hazards such as leaking roofs, dangerous boilers, overloaded electrical sockets, mould or vermin.

Labour MP for North Westminster, Karen Buck, who is fighting to make homes fit for habitation, said about half of the local authorities in England have served one enforcement notice, at most, under the Housing Act in the past year. Landlords can be fined up to £30,000 or imprisoned if convicted of failing in their duties as a landlord. However, it seems as though councils do not have the means to inspect properties to make sure they are fit for purpose.

So is adding new legislation the answer? Although tenants will be able to sue landlords directly, how many have the funds to do so or would be inclined to start action if they thought they would be evicted? All it would be is another piece of legislation for rogue landlords to ignore, while professional landlords pay the price through further licensing and bureaucracy.

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