Private Rented Sector

Age and the Private Rented Sector

This week, a report from the Resolution Foundation has found that up to a third of young people face living in private rented accommodation for all of their lives. In addition, 40% of those born between 1980 and 1996 were living in rented housing by the age of 30, which is twice as many as the previous generation. The Foundation’s Home Improvements report called for more affordable homes for first-time buyers as well as better protection for those who rent, highlighting in particular the unsuitability of the private rented sector for families with children, who would benefit from improved security of tenure.

Lindsay Judge, Senior Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation noted:

“If we want to tackle Britain’s housing crisis we have to improve conditions for the millions of families living in private rented accommodation. That means raising standards and reducing the risks associating with renting through tenancy reform.”

The Home Improvements report is a timely intervention, which showcases the challenges that face “the Millennial Generation” in the present day and the years to come. It also dovetails nicely with our own report Living in Fear: Experiences of Older Private Renters in London, which performed a similar investigation into the difficulties facing older Londoners that rent privately.

If it is indeed true that a third of Millennials face renting for their entire lives, then our findings suggest that large scale changes need to be made in order to meet these tenants’ needs as they grow older. This is especially urgent, considering that The number of private-renting households for those aged 45-64 has more than doubled in the last ten years and recent estimates suggest that the number of private-renters in London aged 65 and over could double between 2014 and 2039.

Just as the Home Improvements report outlines how the current state of the private rented sector affects the younger generation, we discovered that many of the challenges related to older people in a specific way, particularly within a health and social care context.

The following were of particular concern to older private renters in London:

Security of tenure: Assure Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) were found to undermine tenants’ ability to feel truly at home in the rented property, which is especially troubling for older tenants who are usually looking for a “home for life” that they can make their own and feel secure in.

Rent and other costs: Rent increases are affecting people of all ages all over the country, but older people often have less capacity for increasing earnings in line with their rental costs and are more likely to need to cut down working hours as they get older. This can then have a knock-on effect on health where a corresponding cutting down on expenditure on utilities and food is necessitated.

Repairs and maintenance: Many older private renters reported unsatisfactory outcomes related to repairs and maintenance, which is especially concerning as living in a poorly-maintained home is far more likely to have a negative impact on the health of an older person who may be physically and financially incapable of fixing the problem.

Health and moving home: Our research found that much in the same way that as they felt about asking for repairs, there was a reluctance amongst older tenants to ask for adaptations on health grounds for fear of appearing a “problem tenant”. Furthermore many older people fear they will no longer meet the profile of a desirable tenants as their capacity for earnings continues to decrease over time.

What the findings of the two reports discussed show, is that there clearly need to be large scale changes across the private rented sector, both now and in the future. If a third of Millennials are set to rent for their entire lives, then we must act now to improve the standards of living for private tenants, which are currently sub-par for many older renters.

Click here to view the Living in Fear report in its entirety.

George Harvey

George is Age UK London's Communications and Campaigns Officer.

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