A growing number of tenants in the private rental sector in England say they are being left with little alternative but to live in cold properties, in fear of high heating bills and subsequently losing their tenancy, according to new data.
The research was conducted by Sheffield Hallam University and funded by the Eaga Charitable Trust. It was developed to provide a clearer understanding of the current state of energy inefficiency in private rented sector housing.
Focusing on private rental sector tenants in Hackney in London and Rotherham in South Yorkshire, the report found that many tenants face considerable barriers to getting help with cold properties that are unaffordable to warm up.
Respondents from both locations said they had suffered with dangerously cold properties and rationed their heating in cold spells due to fears over sky-high heating costs.
In addition, the report added that many tenants were worried that if they made a complaint to their landlord, they could become a victim of retaliatory eviction. As such, most tenants did not contact their landlord and instead put up with the horrible conditions.
Problems with condensation, extensive damp and mould were widely highlighted. Worryingly, many respondents said that had suffered with chronic health conditions which had been brought on by cold properties.
Under the Energy Act (2011), tenants have been able to request consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements to their properties from their landlord. The landlord is unable to refuse these improvements unreasonably, but it is the responsibility of the tenants to arrange funding for these.
Dr Aimee Ambrose, senior research fellow from Sheffield Hallam Unviersity’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, who led the research, noted: ‘There is a key voice missing from the debate about energy performance in the private rented sector: that of the tenant. Tenants are under-researched and underrepresented, lacking a collective voice due to the absence of organised groups representing them.’
‘The picture emerging from the accounts of respondents is one characterised by limited housing choice that leads to the acceptance of poor quality properties that would otherwise be unacceptable, to fear of challenging the landlord in case of retaliatory action, to enduring cold conditions and high bills, and to suffering the consequences for health and wellbeing,’ she continued.
Ambrose also said: ‘This research represents a decisive step towards a stronger voice for tenants in the debate about energy efficiency in the private rented sector.’
Dr Naomi Brown, manager of Eaga Charitable Trust, also commented: ‘This is highly significant research which is hard-hitting in its depiction of the challenges that tenants in the private rented sector face. The Eaga Charitable Trust is very pleased to have funded the research and hopes that it will influence positive changes to enable private tenants to live in warmer, healthier homes.’