A report has found that tenants in the private rented sector who are on benefits are having to choose between heating and eating because they cannot afford both.
The claim is in a report from a body called the Pro Housing Allowance. But it interviewed just 19 tenants.
The study, ‘Poor Homes, poor health – to heat or eat? Private sector tenant choices in 2012’, lays into private landlords in no uncertain terms, criticising the accommodation they provide and the prices they charge in this part of the sector.
Dr Stephen Battersby, chair of the Pro Housing Alliance, which is also calling for rent controls, said the report showed that the health of tenants who are on benefits is being put at risk.
He said the situation is being made worse by the Government’s welfare reforms, and by ‘poor conditions within the sector’.
He cited lack of security, high costs and ‘dangerous and unhealthy’ homes. He said these were contributing to poor health, including poor mental health.
He went on: “This is made worse by the difficulties of finding the money to keep warm and eat – sometimes tenants cannot do both. This will lead to greater demands on the NHS, and one wonders if this is part of a policy of coercion by destitution.”
Gill Leng, who led the research, said: “Talking to tenants and advice agencies up and down the country has shown just how the cuts are impacting on people who already have very little money to live on. It is clear that health inequalities will be further increased not reduced.”
According to the Pro Housing Alliance, advice agencies are ‘drowning under demand’. One adviser interviewed for the report said: “People will live in dangerous situations with their fingers crossed rather than tackle their landlord.”
The report calls for ministers to assess the public health impacts of the welfare reforms, arguing that savings made on one budget will simply add costs to another – in this case, the NHS.
The report was based on interviews with 19 tenants, despite letters to some 500 offering £20 vouchers as incentives.