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‘Filled with dread’: private renters’ growing mental health crisis


The pressure of paying sky-high rents for often inadequate homes, some of which are blighted by mould, damp and vermin, is causing a mental health crisis affecting millions of people.

Private rental nightmare: a survey published today shows that the housing crisis is causing a mental health crisis

That’s according to a shocking new survey published today by the London Renters Union.

The survey, conducted last month, reveals that 1-in-3 renters feel that private renting is negatively impacting their mental health, with 3-in-5 renters saying they feel depressed about paying their rent.

For 1-in-4 renters, renting is having a negative impact on their physical health.

“The endemic problem of poor mental health across the private rental system shows there is an urgent need for rent control to take the pressure off millions struggling with the cost of living,” according to the London Renters Union.

The London Renters Union represents 7,000 renters across the capital. It has campaigned for an end to no-fault evictions (the Tory government has still to deliver on its promise to end that practice), and for an eviction ban during the covid-19 lockdown.

Polling commissioned by the London Renters Union from YouGov reveals that 3-in-5 renters say that private renting has a negative impact on their financial security (such as the ability to meet basic expenses, or save for the future). Half of all renters say that they have had to cut back on leisure spending.

“This crisis comes at a time when rents are rising at record levels to record highs. More than two-thirds of landlords with no remaining debt on their properties have increased rents on new tenancies. Meanwhile, the majority of buy-to-let landlords have focused on growing their portfolios over the last year despite rising interest rates,” the LRU said today.

While some changes are on the horizon, the delayed Renters Reform Bill abolishing “no-fault evictions” will not tackle the problem of rising rents, according to the LRU. “Renters will still face the threat of an unaffordable rent hike, forcing many to cut back further on essentials, move home, or become homeless.”

In October last year, LRU worked together with thinktank New Economics Foundation, Generation Rent and other tenants’ unions to launch the Renters’ Manifesto.

The manifesto calls for comprehensive rent controls, as well as a shift towards more public housing. Scotland has committed to introduce rent controls and Wales is planning to consult on the policy.

According to one London renter: “Every time I think about my housing situation, I am filled with dread.

Jumping through Zoopla hoops: moving from one private rental to another can cost £1,000 a time

“I’ve never managed to stay longer than 18 months in a single home because the landlord has always raised the rent or there’s been a problem with the property. I’ve never had the chance to get to know my neighbours properly and I’m sick of the endless house-hunting on Zoopla.

“Moving house can cost upwards of £1,000 and the emotional impact of doing this process is immense.

“Over the years, it’s interfered with my relationships, work, and my general well-being. I feel like I’m trapped in a cycle of insecurity.”

The LRU said: “A housing system run primarily for private profit is failing to meet our basic needs. We need the government to follow the lead of cities across Europe and act now to control rising rents to take the pressure off millions of struggling renters.”

Survey results

The survey was conducted on January 17 by YouGov from a representative sample of 628 UK private renters.

  • One-third of private renters (35%) said renting privately has a negative impact on their mental health. In the south of England, this figure rises to 40%.
  • Nearly two-thirds of private renters (63%) said when thinking about paying their rent each month they feel depressed.
  • 69% of private renters said when thinking about paying their rent each month they feel anxious.
  • One-quarter of private renters (25%) said renting privately has had a negative impact on their physical health.
  • 59% of private renters said renting privately has had a negative impact on their financial security, including basic expenses or saving for the future. In London, this figure rises to 65%.
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of private renters said they feel depressed all of the time or most of the time when thinking about paying rent.

Read more: Green Dragon residents shocked by £7,000 service charge bills
Read more: ‘Gouging’ sees private tenants hit by £3,400 rent increases

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‘Filled with dread’: private renters’ growing mental health crisis