Researchers at Citizens Advice say 740,000 privately rented homes across England contain serious risks to health including severe damp, rat infestations, and risks of explosion.
The households pay an average of £157 a week for the privilege of living in such homes.
“Rogue landlords are putting profits before safety,” warned Gillian Guy, the chief executive of the organisation which carried out of the research.
“With a growing private rental sector, increasing numbers of people – including more than 500,000 children – are falling prey to landlords who fail to meet decent standards.
“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.”
Proportion of homes that are physically unsafe
Privately rented accommodation was in a significantly worse state to council and housing association property.
Sixteen per cent of all privately rented homes were found to physically unsafe, compared to just six per cent in the socially rented sector.
Eight per cent of private homes were found to have serious damp, which can contribute to chronic illnesses such as bronchitis, eczema, and asthma.
Six per cent were excessively cold and ten per cent rosed a risk of dangerous fall; both of these factors present significant hazards for elderly people.
The charity recommends that tenants should become entitled to rent refunds when their homes are found to be dangerous, that a national landlord register should be set up, and that councils should set up local licencing schemes.
In pictures: Tiny London flats to rent
In pictures: Tiny London flats to rent
1/6 London properties
A "cosy" flat in an upmarket area of west London is available to rent for a reasonable £520 a month, provided the tenant doesn’t mind showering under the bed
2/6 London properties
Located on Castletown Road, the advertisement on Zoopla boasts: "A cosy, single studio located in the heart of London’s fashionable and up-market area of West Kensington, this compact mezzanine includes not only a fully furnished living area including table, chair, wardrobe and chest of draws [sic] but also a personal shower and kitchenette complete with storage"
3/6 London properties
The property is recommended for "students, working professionals and those looking for a thriving London life at an affordable rate"
4/6 London properties
A studio flat for rent in Kember Street, north London was advertised for £737-a-month
5/6 London properties
The 'well-used' kitchen of a flat in Hoxton, which was on the market for £997 per month
6/6 London properties
For only £125 per week you could be the lucky owner of this single studio flat, complete with shower and kitchenette, located between Barons Court and West Kensington
The Government banned borough-wide local licencing schemes rolled out on councils’ own initiative just before the general election.
Housing minister Brandon Lewis argued at the time that such schemes were “draconian” and a burden to landlords.
“The vast majority of private landlords offer a decent service – so I’m determined we end the ‘tenants tax’ caused by draconian measures that do nothing to tackle rogue operators and only serve to push up rents,” he said.
In a statement headlined “lies, lies, and damned statistics” the National Landlord Association claimed that private housing was adequate and questioned claims in the report.
“We recognise that bad practice exists in private housing, that it can have a devastating effect on those it affects, and that it needs to be stamped out,” said Richard Lambert, the group’s CEO.
“But this report uses loose definitions to compound a perception that private housing is insecure and unsuitable across the board, and it ignores the weight of evidence to the contrary.”
Landlords put up rents by 8.2% last year according to the English Housing Survey, with bigger rises in London.