Rented homes in Sheffield pose risk to health

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Thousands of people in Sheffield are paying to live in homes with hazards that pose a ‘considerable risk’ to their health and safety.

A quarter of the city’s 35,760 private rented properties have damp, mould, excess cold and overcrowding problems, according to a report to Sheffield Council.

And only 55 per cent meet the Government’s Decent Homes minimum standard – compared to 91 per cent of council houses.

The problem of poor quality housing is one of 12 priorities listed to improve the health of the city in the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment.

Jeremy Wight, director of public health, said in the report he wrote: “A quarter of homes have category one hazards that pose a considerable risk to the health and safety of the household.

“The poor condition of properties in the private rented sector should be regarded as one of the biggest challenges facing the council, especially given the significant cuts to Government funding in this area.”

Private rented homes make up 16 per cent of Sheffield houses. The report said a lack of housebuilding, and difficulties getting a mortgage, mean ‘more and more people are being forced into renting, often in the private sector where quality is poor.’

Coun Harry Harpham, the council’s deputy leader, said around 700 complaints of disrepair at private rented homes were received every year – but only a small minority of landlords failed obligations.

He added: “Thankfully serious cases of disrepair are very rare, but we take them very seriously. This can involve taking formal action against landlords which can ultimately lead to court prosecutions.

“We have strengthened our enforcement activity in areas where we know conditions are the poorest and continue to explore initiatives that could improve the health and wellbeing of residents.”

“In a climate of continuing pressure on council budgets, this work will remain a challenge but we are determined to do what we can to protect the city’s most vulnerable tenants.”

Roger Harding, head of policy, research and public affairs at housing charity Shelter, added: “Home should be a place where you are safe from harm and all landlords have a duty to ensure homes they rent out are in a decent state of repair.”

The report will go before the council’s health and wellbeing board and be used to shape Sheffield’s future health strategies.