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This is the squalid state of some homes tenants are renting

PUBLISHED: 08:01 14 March 2018 | UPDATED: 08:53 16 March 2018

The condition of some homes in Norfolk and Suffolk visited by Shelter and by our newspaper reporter. Photo: Shelter/Archant

The condition of some homes in Norfolk and Suffolk visited by Shelter and by our newspaper reporter. Photo: Shelter/Archant

Shelter/Archant

Thousands of families in the region are renting homes in such a squalid state it risks harming their health.

Megan Hendry, 15, by the mould behind her bed in her bedroom at the family house in West Raynham which is full of mould. An improvement notice has been served by the council and the agent has carried out repairs. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMegan Hendry, 15, by the mould behind her bed in her bedroom at the family house in West Raynham which is full of mould. An improvement notice has been served by the council and the agent has carried out repairs. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

An investigation by this newspaper has found increasing concerns about poor quality housing in Norfolk and Suffolk and these pictures show the standard of some homes tenants are putting up with.

While the majority of landlords do provide a good standard of accommodation, we visited homes infested with mould and damp, suffering from leaks and floods and where families, who say they cannot afford to move, say they have done all they can to raise issues. In many cases the tenants in the properties were on benefits, meaning taxpayers are footing the bill for their rent.

We also found that authorities lack the staff to fully tackle the problem.

Housing charity Shelter has said the lack of affordable homes means more tenants have been pushed into the arms of poor landlords. The government says they are aware of the problem generally and are already looking to crack down on poor landlords.

Landlords, meanwhile, said tenants also had to take responsibility for the state of the homes and council inspections should be targeted at known rogue landlords.

The condition of a flat in Lowestoft where the council has served an improvement notice. Photo: ArchantThe condition of a flat in Lowestoft where the council has served an improvement notice. Photo: Archant

We found:

• Tenants on benefits living in homes which had been flooded with raw sewage and had no heating;

• 2,700 homes in Norwich have serious hazards, according to council figures, but there are just three officers to inspect;

• More than 90pc of landlords refuse tenants on benefits out of fear they will not pay rent.

The poor state of some rented homes was debated by Norwich City Council’s scrutiny committee in February.

North North Conservative MP Chloe Smith. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYNorth North Conservative MP Chloe Smith. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Councillors were told the vast majority of the 14,000 privately rented homes in the city were in a good condition and had responsible landlords.

But 2,755 – one in five – had a “category one hazard” which could include excessive cold and mould as well as fire risks.

The city council has three environmental health officers to enforce the law and get landlords to repair hazards in private rented homes.

They have come across shocking cases of neglect, including one landlord renting a garage as a home, water leaking out of electric sockets, and people living in a basement on Prince of Wales Road with no windows or fire escapes.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis carried out a survey of tenants who have problems with landlords last month. One respondent said they had complained for 18 months about their front door not being secure, debris in the garden and kitchen work not being completed.

The condition of one flat in Lowestoft. Photo: ArchantThe condition of one flat in Lowestoft. Photo: Archant

The tenant said: “Our accommodation is maintained at the lowest possible cost to the landlord who seeks high turnover from short term tenants.”

Mr Lewis said: “Too many people are forced to put up with unacceptable, unfit and downright dangerous housing.”

A bill is currently going through Parliament called Fitness for Human Habitation which will give tenants more power against bad landlords.

“That moment cannot come soon enough for the hundreds in our city living in the squalid conditions this newspaper’s investigation has found,” Mr Lewis said.

Norwich North Conservative MP Chloe Smith said she was supporting the Bill, as well as Government moves to crack down on poor landlords.

One house in Norwich where the city council served an improvement notice to the landlord. Photo: ArchantOne house in Norwich where the city council served an improvement notice to the landlord. Photo: Archant

“I hear concerns from constituents about their housing from both the private sector and council housing,” she said. “It can be hard for them to get information. People need to make use of organisations like Shelter.”

Lesley Burdett, from Shelter Eastern Counties, said many people stayed in poor accommodation because moving was so expensive.

“In a lot of cases they are asking landlords to remedy things and they will do a little bit but not everything. Some tenants who complain get evicted,” she said.

Landlord Paul Cunningham, from the Eastern Landlords Association (ELA), said homelessness would be far worse without landlords. But he stressed that rogue landlords should be driven out of business.

“Landlords have to see themselves as businesses with customers and keep customers happy,” he said.

Paul Cunningham from the Eastern Landlords Association (ELA) said councils should target bad landlords rather than use powers against all landlords. 

PHOTO: Nick ButcherPaul Cunningham from the Eastern Landlords Association (ELA) said councils should target bad landlords rather than use powers against all landlords. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

“It is down to the landlord even if you accept the tenant is being aggressive and will not let you in.

“You have a responsibility under the housing act and a moral responsibility to maintain your property.”

But he added councils already had enough powers to deal with errant landlords: “They know who they are, they need to target them and deal with them,” he said.

Norfolk lawyer Tessa Shepperson, from The Landlord Law blog, said both tenants and landlords felt the law worked against them.

“There are always bad apples but tenant organisations only see the problems,” she said.

“I accept they see some horrendous conditions but happy tenants are never on their radar.”

TOMORROW: Some of the squalid conditions tenants are facing

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