older private renters

Isolation, coronavirus & the need to support older private renters

Being less likely to know neighbours who can support you; not having a garden to exercise in, self-isolating in poor conditions and anxiety about when repairs can be made. These are just some of the challenges facing thousands of older private renters in London during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Age UK London have been listening to the concerns of London’s growing number of older private renters for several years. During that time we’ve heard about a range of experiences. Sometimes those experiences are positive but all too often they are a cause for concern.

Lockdown and listening to older renters

When lockdown began 11 weeks ago, we knew that we needed to hear directly from older renters to get an accurate picture of the challenges faced. We also knew we had to help make their voices heard. In our research, we found a troubling picture that demonstrates the need for action to both support people in the short-term and ensure we are better prepared in case we find ourselves in a similar situation in the future.

Landlords. Look out for your older tenants

In our survey with older renters conducted at the end of April, 91% of respondents had not been contacted by their landlord and just under 50% said that making contact was one of the most important things that a landlord could do. Whether it’s a text message, email or call, a landlord getting in touch, even if it’s just to check to see how an older tenant is, can make a huge difference.

Supportive contact from a landlord can reduce anxiety and in some cases provide a lifeline for an older renter who may be experiencing loneliness or isolation, possibly for the first time, during lockdown. Tragically, for those already experiencing loneliness and isolation the pandemic may have led to deteriorating physical and mental health.

Ask more than once

Poor mental health may have been exacerbated by the isolation and uncertainty of lockdown and Age UK London would like to see all good landlords identify and contact older tenants. It might be that a landlord contacted their tenants at the beginning of lockdown however our research suggests that many haven’t. Whether it’s for a first, second or third time we ask that landlords contact their tenants again.

A lot can change in a short space of time and a renter that may have been fine just days ago may now be struggling. We can all make assumptions about who may or may not need support but circumstances change. An older tenant may have a long-term health condition that a landlord is unaware of.

Research has found that older private renters are more likely to have moved home recently and as a result be less connected to a local community and local support networks of friends and family. In areas with a higher proportion of private rented sector homes renters are less likely to know their neighbours well. Neighbourly volunteering and community support has been crucial over the past two months and will continue to be so for a while longer. Neighbours can play a vital role in supporting older renters that might need it.

Raising landlord awareness

A positive relationship with a landlord can reduce anxiety and in some cases a good landlord can help to fill gaps in support. In recent weeks, we’ve worked to make sure a larger number of landlords are looking out for their older tenants and are aware of what they can do to support them. We’ve also shared our 7 simple ways that landlords can support older tenants with groups representing landlords.

Our briefing on older private renters and coronavirus, which includes additional results from our research, can be read here.

If you want to join a movement of older renters and other campaigners taking action to make renting in London more Age-friendly you can join the campaign here.

John McGeachy

John is Age UK London's Campaigns Manager.

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