‘Someone pinched the ceiling’ – Shocking condition of some York rented homes revealed

Poor flooring in the bathroom of a rented property in York. Photographs: City of York Council

The council is cracking down on rented properties in a poor state – with officers discovering people living in homes without proper windows, with missing ceilings and lacking fire safety measures.

Housing officers have visited 117 homes in multiple occupation – properties where five or more people who are not related to each other live – such as student houses.


City of York Council’s housing manager Ruth Abbott said they were “disappointed” with the standards they found in some homes.

These included inadequate fire safety, a lack of carbon monoxide detectors and windows hanging off frames.

No window

This room in a student house had no external window
At a student house in the city centre they discovered a bedroom that had no outside window – but an internal window into the kitchen – meaning the occupier had no privacy, natural light or fresh air.

At another property in Clifton they found the small toilet had no suspended ceiling – with the landlord telling officers “someone had pinched it”.


In Fishergate at a house with 35 people living in it, five of the bedsits were found to be too small – with officers telling the landlord they should not be rented out.

And in the Hull Road area a property had no fire detectors or fire doors.

Cllr Michael Pavlovic said:

  • Houses without any sort of with rooms with no visible light at all – these these are some really quite shocking examples aren’t they of of conditions within within the city.

    I was shocked to read about some of the standards, even though I suspected things were on the whole not as good as we would have liked.

Worst properties

The poor condition of a window frame at a property
Ms Abbott told councillors the inspections are being carried out under a new government laws that mean homes in multiple occupation must have a licence.

She said:

  • We hadn’t anticipated finding quite as much as we have done out there and we haven’t inspected a big chunk of the properties yet.

    We are looking at the worst properties to start with. Fire safety and room size are priorities. We have been slightly disappointed with the standards we have found.”

    We would encourage anybody to report anything to the council.

She said one landlord was issued with a £30,000 fine for not licensing their property – but in most cases landlords have 18 months to bring homes up to scratch before they consider prosecution.

And the council offers landlords training about their obligations – such as the landlord must provide bins and recycling containers.


Cllr Stephen Fenton, chair of the housing committee, said: “Surely it’s your responsibility as the business owner to make sure you’re equipped with the the knowledge and the expertise before you embark on an endeavour, only to then belatedly find out you are hopelessly out of your depth and you’re putting people at risk.

“It’s impressive in itself what [the housing team] have been able to achieve in a short space of time.

“This is an evolving picture – we will look at what the findings are telling us about what’s out there and what we might need to do in terms of expansion.”

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