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The private rented sector is growing, with around 17% of UK households renting privately in 2016 compared to 11% in 2006. Private renters also live in worse housing conditions than owner-occupiers or social renters. 

Poor quality housing can affect physical health and mental wellbeing throughout life. Physical housing conditions (e.g. cold, damp and fall hazards) can have an impact, as can insecure or unaffordable housing. 

Studies have looked at the effectiveness of specific housing improvements and have found some evidence that energy-efficiency improvements, tackling allergens and reducing injury hazards can improve health and wellbeing. However, it is hard to determine the effectiveness of specific housing improvements because poor housing is linked to other factors that affect health. 

Tenants’ choice of housing can be constrained by affordability issues and fear of eviction. Landlords may not understand the standards that are required of them. There are also concerns that local authorities lack the resources to enforce these standards. 

Suggested interventions to improve conditions include incentivising landlords to make improvements and encouraging joint-working between housing, planning and public health professionals at local levels.  


POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including: 

  • Dr Jessica Allen, UCL Institute of Health Equity 
  • Professor Philip Brown, University of Salford* 
  • Building Research Establishment (BRE)* 
  • Michael Chang, Town & Country Planning Association* 
  • Sarah Davis, Chartered Institute of Housing* 
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy* 
  • Department of Health and Social Care* 
  • Ian Fletcher, British Property Federation 
  • Janet Ige, University of the West of England 
  • Professor Ade Kearns, University of Glasgow 
  • Dr Mark Livingston, University of Glasgow* 
  • Local Government Association*
  • Dr Lindsey McCarthy, Sheffield Hallam University 
  • Dr Kim McKee, University of St Andrews* 
  • Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government* 
  • Northern Ireland Assembly Research and Information Service* 
  • Professor David Ormandy, University of Warwick* 
  • Raj Patel, University of Essex Institute for Social and Economic Research* 
  • Vicky Pearlman, Shelter* 
  • Dr Tessa Peasgood, University of Sheffield 
  • Professor David Pevalin, University of Essex 
  • Jeremy Porteus, Housing LIN 
  • Public Health England* 
  • Brian Robson, Joseph Rowntree Foundation 
  • Dr Julie Rugg, University of York 
  • Professor Flora Samuel, University of Reading* 
  • Tamara Sandoul, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health* 
  • Scottish Government
  • Scottish Parliament Information Centre* 
  • Tom Simcock, Residential Landlords Association 
  • Dr Jill Stewart, Middlesex University* 
  • Dr Hilary Thomson, University of Glasgow 
  • Christopher Watson, University of Birmingham* 
  • Welsh Assembly Research Service* 


* Denotes external reviewers of the briefing.

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