British Gas, Britain’s biggest energy supplier, and Shelter have announced a five-year partnership aimed at improving standards in the private rented sector.
The campaign, called Better Homes for Britain, will commission what it calls the widest-ever census of private rental living.
Figures cited by the campaign include statistics from the Government’s English Housing Survey: 605,000 rental homes being too cold; 856,000 being damp or unsafe; and 322,000 being in poor repair.
But the Residential Landlords Association hit out at the campaign’s selective use of statistics, pointing out that English Housing Survey also shows that 84% of tenants in the sector are satisfied with their tenancies – a higher proportion than in the social sector.
The RLA also said that the statistics quoted by British Gas and Shelter are misleading for a number of reasons.
The RLA said that it was not logical to cite poor electrical safety, carbon monoxide and damp problems together, and said: “Causes of damp are manifold and may be due to tenant behaviour such as drying washing indoors.”
It also said that the rental home might be cold not because it lacked heating but because the tenant could not afford to turn it on.
The RLA also accused Shelter and British Gas of failing to recognise that, as outlined in the English Housing Survey, 40% of private rental homes are older properties, built before 1919.
Both British Gas and Shelter are adamant, however, that work needs to be done.
Phil Bentley, managing director of British Gas, said: “At British Gas, we visit 50,000 homes every day keeping our customers’ homes safe, warm and working. However, private rented homes are lagging behind owner-occupied homes and the social housing improvement programmes we support.
“Dilapidated properties with dangerous or inefficient old boilers and inadequate insulation are far too prevalent in the private rental sector. We need a culture of energy efficiency, and standards need to be raised.”
Campbell Robb, CEO of Shelter, said: “It is totally unacceptable that so many of our rented properties are still not meeting the basic standards families should be able to expect in their home.
“At Shelter we see so many shocking examples of families forced to live in homes that are damp, in appalling condition or even unsafe to live in.
“Together with British Gas, we’ll have the scale and reach to improve the condition of a million homes and set out the policy reform we need to improve our private rental sector for good.”