The new tenants dilemma – eat or heat?

S African shackLast night, alerted by the ever reliable Garden Court Chambers housing bulletin) I took a quick look at a new report produced by the Pro Housing Alliance.

It had the rather depressing title

Poor Homes, poor health – to heat or to eat – Private tenant choices in 2012.

I couldn’t bear to read all of it (plus I needed to go to bed) but here are a few statistics which I was not previously aware of:

  • ⅓ of households in the private rented sector are housing benefit claimants
  • Enquiries about insecurity in the Private Rented Sector to the CAB have risen by 167% over the past four years
  • Homelessness from loss of ASTs affected almost 10,000 households in the 12 months prior to September 2012
  • 5 million housing benefit tenants live in the private rented section
  • In which 1.3 million homes are not decent*
  • of these 900,000 have a category 1 hazard under the HHSRS, and
  • 44% fail the standard on the “thermal comfort criterion’.

(*This is the ‘decent standard‘ introduced for social housing by the Blair/Brown administration. I tried to search for it on Google but it appears now to be in the National Archive.)

Reading the report it is very clear that a significant percentage of the population is living in substandard accommodation, but are terrified to complain about it in case they lose their home.

In any event (says the report), moving for many is quite out of the question, involving as it does so many fees – letting agent fees, deposit money, referencing fees, fees to access keys and the like, let alone the actual cost of removal itself. So they are forced to stay where they are, however unsatisfactory.

For many households, including families, it is (says the report) literally a choice between eating or heating the home.

Needless to say, all this is having a terrible effect on people’s health, particularly children (where the effects can be lifelong). Which will of course have a knock on cost to the NHS (which we all pay for).

I saw an an article in the Guardian recently which compared our housing conditions to those in the South African slums. Maybe he has a point.

For more information, read the report.  Its here.

African shack picture

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About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google



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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.


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