The older private tenant population is “invisible” in policy decisions on housing and age-related issues, according to a new report from Independent Age, an older people’s charity, which examines the challenges faced by elderly renters in the UK.
This is despite older private tenants being more likely to report cold and damp in their homes, expecting to get into financial difficulty in the future, and many being in poverty after housing costs.
Almost one third (32%) of the older private tenant population feels that their accommodation isn’t suitable for their needs, the study shows.
One in ten of all private rental households are occupied by older people – an estimated half a million people. Over the next 20 years, it is expected that the number of older households living in private rental accommodation will rise by around two-thirds, from 338,000 households to around 549,000.
Many older people who rent have done so all of their lives. Older private tenants are disproportionately more likely to move than older people in other tenures, with more than three-quarters (77%) moving to another private rental home or to social housing.
Other findings from the report, titled Unsuitable, insecure and substandard homes: The barriers faced by older private renters, include:
- Twice as many private tenants aged 65 and over say that they have cold and damp in their homes, compared to homeowners or social renters.
- More than a quarter (29%) of older private tenants say that they sometimes or often have too little money, with one in seven saying that they don’t go out socially because they can’t afford it.
- One third of private tenants aged 65 and over are living below the poverty threshold after they have paid their rent, with poverty levels higher among private renters than older people in other tenures.
- Older private tenants are more likely to have paid for adaptations to their home themselves, with almost two in five (38%) having done this. Just 8% said that their landlord paid for adaptations, compared to one third (33%) of social renters.
Janet Morrison, the Chief Executive of Independent Age, comments on the findings: “Life as an older person in private rented accommodation can be unstable and financially insecure, yet they are often invisible in thinking about housing. Older private renters face a delicate balancing act of rising rents on a low fixed income, the unnerving possibility of being forced out of their home at short notice, dealing with unscrupulous landlords, and the fact that their home may not even be suitable for their needs. They may also lack the emotional and familial support needed for this.
“It is shameful that a third are already living below the poverty threshold. Government and local authorities must ensure that renters of all ages have a safety net to prevent them being forced into poverty, and that they have recourse to challenge landlords when they feel that they are being poorly treated.”
The charity makes the following recommendations to improve the lives of the older private tenant population:
- Local rent controls and greater protections for private tenants to be investigated and adopted to ensure that people are not priced out of areas and that rents are kept at affordable levels, which would benefit renters of all ages.
- Enough social housing to be made available to older people on low fixed incomes, especially in London and rural areas, where there are more private tenants aged 65 and over.
- Investment to ensure that new build homes, whether for owner-occupation or to let, are fit for purpose for an ageing population, and are built to a high standard, well located and affordable.
Landlords, do you let to older tenants? If so, perhaps you could start thinking about how suitable your properties are for an ageing renter population.