Posted 10 Jun 2019
One in 10 forced to report same problem with their social home more than 10 times
Two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, Shelter is warning the government must listen to the third of families with children in social housing who feel less safe in their homes and take urgent action to prevent further tragedies.
The government is proposing a new building safety regulator, but the housing charity fears this will not go far enough to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all tenants is protected. That is why Shelter is standing with Grenfell United to call on the government to introduce a tough, new consumer regulator that protects tenants and proactively inspects social landlords.
New figures released by Shelter show that over half (56%) of social renters in England – five million people – have experienced a problem with their home in the last three years, including electrical hazards, gas leaks and faulty lifts. Among those who had a problem, one in 10 had to report it more than 10 times, suggesting tenants are still being failed by poor regulation.
Worryingly, the survey carried out by YouGov shows that over the same period more than 400,000 people encountered an issue with fire safety, which also affected their neighbours in over two-fifths of cases.
Shelter is concerned that the current regulator of social housing exists mainly to oversee finances and is not exclusively focussed on addressing the concerns of residents or tackling problem landlords head-on. In fact, almost three-quarters (72%) of social tenants in England have never heard of the current regulator.
The research also reveals a deep mistrust in the government since the Grenfell Tower fire, with half saying they have less trust in the government to keep social tenants safe in their homes. Another third says the government’s response has made no difference. This is why Shelter and Grenfell United believe that only a new consumer regulator can protect tenants and rebuild trust.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Social tenants living in Grenfell Tower raised serious safety concerns before the fire, but they were ignored. Two years on, social renters are still being failed by poor regulation and people are still fighting to be heard.
“In the wake of food scandals and financial scandals, the government responded with new regulators to protect consumers, and that’s exactly what we need for social housing. It cannot be right that scores of complaints and problems that affect whole blocks of flats, like faulty lifts or gas leaks, go unheard. We need a new regulator that’s firmly on the side of tenants.
“Tinkering with the current system just isn’t good enough when people have lost trust in it to keep them safe. That’s why we stand with Grenfell United in calling on the government to establish a new consumer regulator, which inspects social landlords and listens to groups of tenants when they say something isn’t right.”
Natasha Elcock, Chair of Grenfell United, the bereaved families and survivors’ group said: “People were raising the alarm about fire safety in Grenfell before the fire, but they were ignored and belittled. The current housing regulator did nothing for us, it was entirely invisible. And two years later, despite all the promises, we still hear from people across the country who are not being listened to about their homes.
“If we want to stop another Grenfell fire, we need serious change – change that will genuinely make a difference to people living in social housing. We need a new system, not a rebrand of the current one. The government introduced a new regime for the banking industry after the financial crash, it should be doing the same for the housing sector. After all, what could be more important than people's homes.”
Case study: Karen Connelly, 54, has lived in a block of council flats in South London for 13 years. For over a decade, Karen and her neighbours have been living with issues such as damp, faulty electrics and drains, and exposure to asbestos.
Karen said: “My flat flooded three weeks after I moved in, and there have been problems ever since. I’ve had to fight the council to remove asbestos, but it doesn’t end there. Everyone in this block has problems – whatever’s happened to me has happened to my neighbours too. I’ve worked non-stop to get redress, and I’ve become a spokesperson for others too.
“In 2011, I took legal action over the state of my flat and faulty electrics. Shortly after that, I met a mother with a new born baby living in a room covered with damp and mould, which motivated me to keep going. The injustice of it gets me. We’re let down by the system. That was how the residents of Grenfell were failed – no-one was listening to them.”
Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through our advice, support and legal services. We campaign to make sure that, one day, no one will have to turn to us for help. For free and independent advice visit https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help
Notes to editor:
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 11,072 adults, of which 1,077 were adults who rent from a local authority or housing association. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th - 27th May 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+).
- When asked: ‘Thinking about the most recent problem that you have experienced... How many times, if any, did you/ someone in your household report this problem to try and resolve it?’ 10% of social renters that have experienced a problem in their social home in the last 3 years say they reported their most recent problem more than 10 times
- When asked: ‘Still thinking about the UK Government's response to the fire at Grenfell. Overall, to what extent has the UK Government's response made you feel more or less safe in your home, or has it made no difference?’ 30% of social renters with children in their household say it made them feel less safe. Shelter defines families as households with children in their household.
- When asked: ‘Which, if any, of the following problems have you experienced in a social rented property that you have lived in over the last 3 years (i.e. since May 2016)?’ 56% of social renters say they experienced a problem with their social home and 5% (4.65%) of social renters say they experienced a problem with fire safety.
- The number of social renters who have experienced a problem with their home in the last 3 years is calculated as a proportion of all social renters. According to the English Housing Survey 2017/18, there are 8,985,510 social renters in England. This was calculated by multiplying the number of households living in social housing (3,958,374) by the average household size (2.27). We divided 8,985,510 by 100 and then multiplied this by 56 to reach the figure of 5,031,886 social renters who have had a problem with their home in the last three years. Source: MHCLG, English Housing Survey Headline Report 2017/18, Section 1 Household Tables, Annex Table 1.1 and Annex Table 1.3
- The number of social renters who have experienced a problem with fire safety in the last 3 years is calculated as a proportion of all social renters. We divided 8,985,510 by 100 and then multiplied this by 4.65 to reach the figure of 417,826 social renters who have been affected by fire safety issues in the last three years. Source: MHCLG, English Housing Survey Headline Report 2017/18, Section 1 Household Tables, Annex Table 1.1 and Annex Table 1.3
- When asked: ‘Which ONE, if any, of the following statements best describes your knowledge of the Regulator of Social Housing (RSC) and its purpose?’ 72% of social renters answered ‘I had never heard of the Regulator of Social Housing before taking this survey’
- When asked: ‘Overall, to what extent has the response made you trust the UK Government more or less to ensure that social tenants are safe in their home, or has it made no difference?’ 49% of social renters answered that they trust the government less and 33% say it has made no difference.