Private rented tenants more at risk of burglary and violent crime

New research by the Police Foundation shows that neighbourhoods with more privately rented homes suffer from more burglaries and higher levels of violence ‘behind closed doors’.  Research in Luton found that areas with a higher percentage of private rented homes had higher burglary rates. In parts of Slough the research found that 40% of violent incidents that did not involve spouses / partners or family members took place inside private dwellings and that these offences occurred disproportionately in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) (shared dwellings, where tenants rent rooms or beds but share facilities with unknown others).

The Police Foundation today publishes Safe as Houses? Crime and changing tenure patterns which identifies a link between crime and the conditions in some parts of the private rented housing sector. The report argues that higher burglary rates in areas with more privately rented homes are likely to be explained by a lack of community resilience among transient populations and landlords not investing sufficiently in good locks on windows and doors.  The research found that in Slough Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) suffered from disproportionately high levels of non-domestic violence, which the report argues is linked to the stresses of living in low quality crowded accommodation, with shared facilities and no choice of co habitees.

Rick Muir, Director of the Police Foundation said “Too much of the private rented sector is of poor quality, with insecure doors and windows, and tenants living in overcrowded shared housing which can be stressful and lead to violent crime. There is a need for greater regulation of the private rented sector so that landlords must be registered with local councils and must meet decent home security standards.”

The report calls on the government to establish a national register of private landlords so that all private landlords need a license to let.  The report recommends that local councils are given more powers to establish their own licensing schemes so to raise the standards of home security in privately rented homes. Any income from licensing fees should be ploughed back into enforcement and crime reduction initiatives.


For more information please contact

Catherine Saunders, Communications Officer: 020 3752 5630

Notes to editors

  1. The Police Foundation is running a major, four year project on police effectiveness in a rapidly changing world. This project, which is being conducted in partnership with the police, local authorities and others in Luton and Slough, aims to identify and deliver better approaches to reducing crime. The project is focused on burglary in two wards in Luton and on violence, including domestic violence, in two wards in Slough. The team has recently completed a programme of research and analysis to establish a detailed understanding of these issues. Based on the findings of this work, the project team is now working with local agencies to develop and implement innovative approaches to these crime problems. The impact of these changes will be evaluated and the full results published in 2016. 
  1. Today’s report Safe as Houses? Crime and changing tenure patterns is based on preliminary findings from our research in Luton and Slough and is authored by Andy Higgins (senior Analyst at the Police Foundation) and Roger Jarman (an independent housing expert).
  2. Since 2001 there has been a major expansion in the size of the private rented sector in England, which grew from 12% of all homes in 2001 to 18% in 2011. In three of the four wards studied in Luton and Slough the private rented sector makes up over 40% of all homes.
  3. Our research in Luton found that while crime in general tends to be higher in deprived neighbourhoods, it is the level of private renting that best predicts burglary rates, whereas the level of social renting does not.
  4. Our research in Slough found that more than 40% of non-domestic violent incidents (i.e. those involving parties who were not spouses / partners or family members), in both wards we studied occurred ‘behind closed doors’- and therefore beyond the reach of most police prevention activity. We found that residents were experiencing violence in their homes, typically at the hands of known acquaintances and that women and girls were particularly affected. In one ward in Slough 18 per cent of non-domestic violence in dwellings occurred in just 164 known Houses in Multiple Occupation, which is disproportionately high.
  5. In helping local practitioners to design new responses to these crime problems, the project team were struck by the lack of available options for affecting positive change within local private rented sectors. The report explores the historic and regulatory context for this, and assesses the potential of licensing schemes to provide a platform for reducing crime.
  6. The report makes a number of recommendations to improve the security and safety of privately rented homes and reduce the reactive demand on the police and other agencies:
    • Police analysts should be alive to changes in local housing markets that may drive crime in particular areas and require a focused response;
    • The Housing Act should be amended so that ‘entry by intruders’ is reclassified as a Category 1 harm, which would help to raise the security standards required in privately rented homes;
    • A National Register of Landlords should be established so that all private landlords require a licence to operate;
    • Local authorities should be empowered to develop their own PRS licensing schemes so that they can raise security standards in their area;
    • Any income collected from local licensing schemes should be invested directly in housing enforcement and associated crime reduction initiatives.