Damp & Mould, Pests & Vermin: Is Your Home Making You Sick?

What You Need To Know About The Homes (Fit For Habitation) Act

Almost half of UK renters say they’ve been injured or suffered illness due to the condition of their home, according to a nationally-representative study* of 1,000 UK renters conducted on behalf of Aspect.

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, with respiratory problems arising from mould and damp, allergies linked to environmental irritants and illness related to poor heating among the most common complaints. One-in-five (19.4%) renters said the condition of their home had caused them stress or anxiety.

As well as making their inhabitants ill, badly maintained rental properties have the potential to cause injuries too. 8% say they’ve sustained cuts and scrapes from sharp edges and poorly-fitted fixtures, the same proportion said they’ve experienced an injury from a trip or fall caused by the condition of their home, such as from a loose-fitting carpet or a loose step. 6% have had an electric shock from a landlord-supplied appliance, 4% have experienced puncture wounds and 3% have sustained burns. 4% of UK renters say they’ve experienced a carbon monoxide related illness that they directly attribute to the condition of their home. Even though some of these figures appear to be relatively low percentage wise, any party involved should certainly not underestimate them as ultimately they can all have a huge affect on a person’s wellbeing and health. According to the Department of Health and Social Care, there are approximately 50 carbon monoxide related deaths per year in the UK.

Most commonly reported health and injury issues in UK rental property

Health problemExperience rate
Stress or anxiety due to general condition of the home19.4%
Illness related to cold environment or poor heating14.3%
Allergies or reactions related to environmental irritants (e.g. fleas, dust mites, bed bugs)10.7%
Lung or respiratory problems from mould (caused by damp)10.1%
Stress or anxiety due to vermin or pests7.9%
Cuts and scrapes from jagged edges or poorly fitted fixtures7.8%
Injury from trip hazards (e.g. loose steps or carpet)7.6%
Interrupted sleep due to vermin or pests7.4%
Electric shocks from faulty appliances, sockets or switches6.0%
Bacterial infection (e.g. legionnaires disease)4.5%
Puncture wounds from jagged edges or poorly fitted fixtures4.1%
Carbon monoxide related illness3.8%
Burns from faulty appliances3.3%

Base: 1,000 respondents

 

Renting-related health problems disproportionately affect the young. The youngest renters are 24% more likely to experience illness and injury related to a rental property compared to the national average.

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. That’s significantly higher than the 39% of 45-54 year-old renters and 27% of over-55s who reported the same.

Rental health around the UK

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.

Cities with highest reported property-related illness or injury:

CityResidents experiencing illness or injury
Birmingham57.6%
Swansea57.1%
Plymouth56.5%
Leeds55.0%
London52.9%
Edinburgh52.0%

Cities with lowest reported property-related illness or injury:

CityResidents experiencing illness or injury
Chelmsford14.3%
Oxford30.4%
Liverpool31.4%
Manchester31.5%
Aberdeen33.3%
Glasgow37.9%

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act

The Act redefines the obligations of landlords as they relate to the condition of a rented home. Before the new legislation, a landlord would likely be considered in breach of contract if their property were not considered to be in a good state of repair. This typically refers to specific measurable failures, such as broken windows and faulty appliances. The new Act demands that landlords also ensure properties are ‘fit for habitation’, which includes matters such as good ventilation and access to natural light.

At a glance:

  • Takes effect March 20th 2019
  • It upgrades a landlord’s obligation from keeping a property ‘in repair’ to ‘fit for habitation’ – a key distinction
  • It applies to:
    • All tenancies of up to seven years that started on or after the date on which the Act comes into force
    • All fixed-term tenancies that become periodical tenancies (rolling contract) after March 20th 2019
    • All statutory periodic tenancies, secure tenancies, assured tenancies and protected tenancies in place on March 20th 2019 and up to 12 months after
  • There is no specific definition in the Act of ‘fit for habitation’, but the Act sets out examples of fitness for habitation that include:
    • General state of repair
    • Freedom from dam
    • Natural lighting
    • Water supply
    • Proper ventilation
    • Absence of hazards that pose a health and/or safety risk
  • The Act applies both to the specific residential dwelling named in the tenancy and to any common areas also owned by the landlord, such as shared hallways or entrances.

About this study

OnePoll surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 UK adults who are in rented accommodation or have rented in the past on behalf of Aspect, between 08/03/2019 and 12/03/2019. OnePoll are members of the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research and employ members of the Marketing Research Society.