Health in the Private Rental Sector

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I came across a story about health in The Independent from earlier this year. Research had found that people living in a privately rented home seemed to have significantly worse health than homeowners. 

This was measured by the amount of CPR (C-Reactive Protein) an individual had. The higher the level found, the worse the health, as it directly related to infection and stress.

I am often sceptical about the findings of research, but as this is a health issue, should it be treated more seriously? I am not sure, as to provide sufficient information from my point of view would be impossible, because the sample would have to be checked.

For example, how many of the samples were owner occupiers who would be prepared to say they lived in poverty? Now in later life, unable to pay for double-glazing or have boilers replaced, many live in a poverty they had not known in younger days. 

What about social tenants? Do they all live in perfectly sound homes with all the benefits we now consider standard? Maybe now all live in homes that meet the decency standard, but that has not always been the case. How many of them were tested? In my local area, many social tenants rely on the food bank and the community meal provided by the local Church. 

Do the readings test the same for the professional people who in some areas, are reported as being dependent on food banks?  How is CPR affected by whether you are a professional person, in work and in difficulties or a benefit dependent, non-working tenant?  There are so many different combinations of circumstances, how exact is it and how sure can we be, that living in private sector housing is the factor that influences levels of CPR and therefore the general health of a private sector tenant?

Without a lot more evidence, I am not convinced. What I do know is that there will be no shortage of people ready to, yet again, place the blame on the private sector and the long put upon private landlord.

In my many years of involvement with the private sector, I have advised landlords on how to obtain the help that is available to them, to ensure that their properties meet the standards the law, good management and tenants, requires.  Which is why I find it difficult to believe that it is the properties themselves which are resulting in these distressing results. Grants from local authorities have provided double glazing, new boilers and other measures that should make the home environment warmer and more economic to run – surely this should lead to better health, not worse?

It should. For some tenants, it would. But tenants are not all the same. Many social tenants will have moved from poor conditions, will never have lived in their own properties before; it would be irrelevant for some tenants how good a property was, because they carry the seeds of ill-health with them. No allowances are made in the research for past history, as they look at the one factor that has a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer – are you a private sector tenant?  A ‘yes’ answer is all that is needed to prove the case.

I have visited private sector properties which it was clear had been good properties, before the tenant moved in with untrained dogs and cats, allowed children to ride bikes in the house and knock chunks out of sapele doors, that don’t open windows, but dry washing on radiators, leading to walls covered in black mould spores.

If the landlord is uncaring, prepared to risk enforcement agencies discovering their bad practices, then I am happy to accept that their tenants’ health will be affected, and they need help to be re-homed. But most landlords do not deserve to have the poor health of their tenants laid at their door, and certainly not when the tenants are complicit by the poor manner in which they live.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon