The number of older people living in the private rented sector is expected to rise sharply over the next few years, but the ‘awful conditions’ currently facing some older tenants in the PRS must improve otherwise more people will find themselves falling victim to slum landlords and forced to live in ‘squalor and distress’, according to a report published by Age UK.
The charity claims that many ‘vulnerable’ older people are being forced to live in ‘awful privately rented accommodation’, overseen by landlords and letting agents who are disinterested, negligent or downright bullying towards them.
Households aged 65-plus currently account for around 10% of all those living in the PRS, but their numbers are rapidly growing, as reflected by a recent report from retirement rentals specialist Girlings Retirement Rentals.
A separate survey by the National Landlords Association also found that that the number of retired people in the UK moving into the PRS has increased by 200,000 over the last four years and one estimate is that a third of over-60s could be living in private rented accommodation by 2040.
But calls to Age UK’s Advice line between 2013 and 2016 revealed that many older people who are renting at the bottom end of the market have endured bad experiences. This includes repeated failures to carry out timely repairs to essential services such as heating and cookers, excessive rent hikes, being forced to live in damp, mould and cold conditions, while many landlords refuse to allow the installation of aids and adaptations that older people require, like ramps or handrails.
Age UK is calling for urgent legal reform in the PRS to help strengthen the rights of older tenants, ensuring that they are treated fairly.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: “Calls to our advice line show that some highly vulnerable older people are enduring grim living conditions in the private rented sector and this is truly shocking. No one should have to put up with such squalor at any age, but the idea that a chronically ill older person could be living on their own for weeks or even months with no proper heating, or cooking facilities or hot water is sickening.
“The law is far too feeble and the withering away of local environmental health services is making the problem worse. The upshot is that older tenants in the private sector are almost entirely reliant on the decency and professionalism of landlords and letting agents, and sadly this is leaving some at risk of neglect and in the worse cases of bullying and abuse.”
“As it is at the moment, the bottom end of the private rented sector is no place for a vulnerable older person, but if that is what we believe as a society we need to do something about it and create better alternatives.”