Landlords across England are raking in £5.6bn a year on homes that are not fit to live in, a new study has claimed.
A report from legal advice charity Citizens Advice says that there are around 740,000 households across the country that are living in privately rented homes which contain Category 1 hazards – "the most serious of problems, from severe damp to risk of explosion," claims the charity.
The report says that in these households, there are a total of 510,000 children and 180,000 disabled tenants, which has led the charity's chief executive, Gillian Guy, to say that "rogue landlords are putting profits before safety."
Some 16% of privately rented homes are physically unsafe to live in, 8% of them have substantial damp, a tenth "pose a risk of a dangerous fall" and 6% are overly cold.
The report states that landlords are collectively bringing in £5.6bn a year on homes which have Category 1 hazards. Over a fifth of this comes from housing benefits.
Guy added: "The government has rightly said it wants to tackle the country's housing crisis – it must make targeting dodgy landlords, giving tenants better rights and driving up standards a major part of that effort."
Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association, Alan Ward, said that there needs to be a review of how the standards can be enforced to ensure that homes are up to scratch for tenants.
Ward said: "No tenant should ever have to put up with unsafe housing, and those landlords that wilfully provide such accommodation have no place in the market.
"Today's report highlights the growing need for better enforcement of the wide range of powers already available to local authorities. The hazards identified by [Citizens Advice] are already illegal and calls into question the use of housing benefit for unfit properties."