Poor living conditions are a problem across the rental sector, with a ‘slum tenure’ developing at the bottom of the market, according to University of York.

Failure to regulate the rental sector is contributing to the creation of a ‘slum tenure’ at the bottom of the property market, a study warned today.

Poor conditions are a problem across the entire sector, with one in five rental homes at the top end of the market classed as non-decent, rising to one in three at the bottom end.

The report, from the University of York, called for annual property MOT tests to be introduced for rental homes to ensure they were fit to live in.

Dr Julie Rugg, co-author of the report and senior research fellow at the University of York’s Centre for Housing Policy, said: “Unbelievably, there is currently no minimum standard that properties have to meet before they are let and as a result, millions of renters have to put up with damp, disrepair and sometimes life-threatening hazards.

“A property MOT would give people confidence before they sign a tenancy that the property is well-managed and that standards won’t lapse in the future.”

Why is this happening?

The report said government regulation of the rental sector was “confused and contradictory” and “failing at multiple levels”.

It warned that welfare reform was leading to the creation of a slum tenure as increasing numbers of tenants were unable to pay their rent or find a suitable home without the help of government or third sector agencies.

It added that government policy was increasingly focused on helping higher and middle-income renters who were priced out of homeownership, with little or no help for those on low incomes.

Above: well-presented two-bedroom house to rent in Blythe Hill Lane, south east London 

Who does it affect?

Introducing a property MOT test would not only give tenants greater security about the condition of their home, but it would also provide landlords with more clarity about their responsibilities and protection against being prosecuted, the report said.

It would work in a similar way to MOT tests for cars, with all rental homes required to undergo an annual standardised inspection.

The move would bring together current requirements, such as electrical and gas safety certificates and energy efficiency reports, as well as including a new assessment to ensure properties meet basic minimum standards.

The MOT test would be carried out by independent inspectors and would be a tax-deductible business cost for landlords.

What’s the background?

The report said millions of private tenants had been failed during the past decade due to poor policy making and a lack of strategy.

It said no government had been clear on the function of renting in the property market, and as a result intervention had been piecemeal and poorly targeted.

The Nationwide Foundation, which funded the report, called for the Government to carry out a fundamental reform to fix the rental market.

Leigh Pearce, chief executive of the Nationwide Foundation said: “For years politicians have ignored the needs of private renters, resulting in a market that all too often fails to provide decent, secure and affordable homes - particularly for those on low incomes. It’s time government started to take this problem seriously.”

Top 3 takeaways

  • A ‘slum tenure’ is emerging at the bottom end of the rental market
  • One in five rental homes at the top end of the market and one in three at the bottom end are classed as non-decent
  • Annual property MOT tests should to be introduced for rental homes to ensure they are fit to live in

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